Keeping a checkbook register

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
MikeG62
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Location: New Jersey

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by MikeG62 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:33 am

Good Listener wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:18 pm
Added after numerous comments:
Thank you all for your comments. It seems that most are comfortable not keeping a register and most in that group use an alternate like Quicken or Mint. Im not interested in those. Without these, would you still not keep a register?
I maintain an electronic checkbook register I developed in excel. Much better than a paper register and I can search for any entry quickly and efficiently. I can also reconcile my checking account in real time and very quickly. Note that very few entries are checks as I try and pay everything electronically. This is part of a multitabbed excel workbook where I track our CC spending as well as our overall monthly spending vs budget.

I would not be comfortable not maintaining a checkbook register - but I am old school (and a finance guy).
Real Knowledge Comes Only From Experience

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cheese_breath
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:12 am

My reason for a checkbook register is to have something to write things on until I get time to enter them in my Excel spreadsheet. Otherwise I forget them.

Plus, if you ever go before Judge Judy you better have a checkbook register to show her. She doesn't accept Excel. :D :D :D
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

NextMil
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by NextMil » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:24 am

I use an app on my phone called balance that is a digital check register. I would be lost without a debit register. I use it for all transactions and then at the end of the month, I sweep the remaining cash into investments. It also helps me to not overspend, and its sort of fun to see if I can beat last month's spending.

SQRT
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by SQRT » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:38 am

I use an excel based “register” for my checking account. Hardly any checks but maybe 20-30 entries a month. Could probably do without it but it’s an easy reference tool. In addition, I would probably have to keep more funds in the checking account to avoid overdraft risk if I didn’t have this “register”.

ubermax
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Location: Connecticut

Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by ubermax » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:51 am

We have a checkbook , 3 ring , think it's called a desktop version - we may most bills online but there are a few that require a check , checks last us a long time - I download the activity periodically from our bank's website into an Excel spreadsheet when I want to "balance" the "register" :happy

inbox788
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by inbox788 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:08 pm

abuss368 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:30 pm
So how many Bogleheads actually reconcile their checkbooks?
I used to, but gave up on that idea a while back. Just look at the general accuracy (did I write the checks) and trust the bank to do the math.

I've gone back only once or twice where the register has been useful beyond the current checkbook. I've kept old registers for years (beyond the 5-7 years along with tax records), but given the lack of usefulness, I'm more inclined to toss them sooner (might only keep a year or two). Many banks have extended beyond the 1-2 years of immediate access and 3-5 years of online statements.

My strategy going forward is to reduce the number of transactions and complete the transactions sooner, so I don't have to worry about tracking things. And along with that goes tossing registers. And since I've gone to duplicate checks (free from bank), those duplicates have been my register and I haven't bothered copying them over to an actual booklet.

Anyway, today, nearly everything is electronic, and I have 2-3 regular regular uses for checks. Beyond that, it's really only occasional usage now.

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Ice-9
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Ice-9 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:27 pm

OP, thank you for this thread.

I was taught to use a check register by my late grandmother when I was in my 20s in the 1990s. I have never written too many checks per year ever, but always filled out the register for the few I did write, following this lesson from her. Like many who posted above, that only means recording two or three check recipients a year nowadays.

Meanwhile, I was a Yodlee user for almost a decade until switching to Personal Capital several years ago. I never questioned writing those few transactions in the register before, but now I'm thinking, why the heck am I even bothering to do this? :oops: The few checks I write appear in PC as well as the bank's website. There's no need. I think I'm going to make myself stop using the register, as hard as breaking the habit may be. (Sorry Grammy!) :)

baliktad
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by baliktad » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm

livesoft wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:32 pm
I wrote 2 paper checks today in order to pay property taxes without a fee and on a specific date in person. The check book was last used about one year ago for the same purpose.
TwstdSista wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:50 pm
And I still write checks as well -- at least 14 personal checks per year: 7 to insurance company (5 different policies), 2 for property taxes, 2 for life insurance, and 3 for vehicle registrations.
Toons wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:15 pm
One check per year
Property Taxes(They fill it out ,I sign it.My handwriting has become atrocious since the advent of the digital age)
Halicar wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:52 pm
Like several others, the only checks I write are for property taxes twice a year.
AntsOnTheMarch wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:05 am
I only write maybe 5 paper checks a year so for example, if I’m writing a check for property tax, I make a receipt of the check and the slip that goes with it using my smartphone.
Sheepdog wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:22 pm
What checks do we write and why (people and places who do not accept debit or credit cards)
[...]
Property tax
Income tax
cfs wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:50 pm
My actual checks are to pay quarterly and property taxes, however, I have all other payments in auto mode (ACH)
Maya1234 wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:36 pm
I write 2 checks a year for real estate tax. EVERYTHING else is via electronic payment or I make a check request online from Chase.
I am shocked at how many people have eliminated checks from their lives and yet continue to write a check for property taxes. My county has a fee to pay online :annoyed but no fee to pay by check. I just use my bank's billpay, who fires off a check twice a year on the date I specify. My tax parcel number is specified as the account number, so even though my payment stub isn't included, the county still credits my account.

I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?
47Percent wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:50 pm
I started paying the property tax payments also online a few years ago through Schwab billpay. But recently, my county has implemented direct debit from the checking account. So I can use either the push or pull method.
So there is at least one other instance of someone using their bank's billpay to pay property taxes. Hello kindred spirit!
47Percent wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:50 pm
I go even one step further to avoid writing paper checks. I schedule periodic checks mailed to my address through billpay for periodic payments I pay for home services such as gardening. The checks are made payable to "Mr Yours Truly OR Mr Gardener Extraordinaire". They are scheduled to be delivered a few days before I need to pay. They arrive like clockwork. If a payment needs to be skipped, I can hold the check and use it next time (skip the next automatic check), or deposit it back in my account.

For most personal payments I just use PayPal or adjust in some other way. In the past 8 years, I may have written a dozen checks in all.
Very clever use of billpay to send a vendor check to your own address for cases where paper payment is required. Never thought of doing this, I might consider this for a similar situation. I abhor writing paper checks and do everything I can to eliminate them. Practically the only reason I keep a checkbook anymore is as a source of voided checks to include with paperwork required to set up automatic ACH withdrawals for various billers.

Spirit Rider
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Spirit Rider » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:52 pm

baliktad wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm
I am shocked at how many people have eliminated checks from their lives and yet continue to write a check for property taxes. My county has a fee to pay online :annoyed but no fee to pay by check. I just use my bank's billpay, who fires off a check twice a year on the date I specify. My tax parcel number is specified as the account number, so even though my payment stub isn't included, the county still credits my account.

I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?
The terms and conditions of many online bill payment programs, specifically exclude payment guarantees for tax payments. My local credit union and my online account both have such exclusions. The two jurisdictions that I pay property taxes to, both charge significant convenience fees for online payments.

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Sheepdog
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Sheepdog » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:36 am

Spirit Rider wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:52 pm
baliktad wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm
I am shocked at how many people have eliminated checks from their lives and yet continue to write a check for property taxes. My county has a fee to pay online :annoyed but no fee to pay by check. I just use my bank's billpay, who fires off a check twice a year on the date I specify. My tax parcel number is specified as the account number, so even though my payment stub isn't included, the county still credits my account.

I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?
The terms and conditions of many online bill payment programs, specifically exclude payment guarantees for tax payments. My local credit union and my online account both have such exclusions. The two jurisdictions that I pay property taxes to, both charge significant convenience fees for online payments.
In my county the tax payment fees are 2.50% for CC and $1.50 for online. I don't need to pay that if I don't have to. Besides, I do not find writing a check for taxes and mailing them, if applicable, a nuisance. Besides, the number of places we do have to pay by check, such as garbage (they also charge fees for CC), barbers, hair dressers, charities, Rotary and other groups dues and assessments, and at-the-moment donations, so What's one more? No problem from my standpoint. Checks have not been eliminated from my life completely. So what? That doesn't bother me.
People should not say everything they think. They should think about everything they say.

Lynette
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Lynette » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:57 am

I'm in my seventies and I don't use a checkbook register. I pay property taxes, lawn service, snow plow guys and most maintenance people by check. Last week I wrote a large check for my property taxes as the charge for credit card was 3%. I browse my bank account every few days to see if checks have cleared. I have my credit cards with the same bank. I keep a mental note of my balance. No other accounting.

I tried Quicken but it is a pain to have to put all of my purchases from Amazon into categories.

mmcmonster
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by mmcmonster » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:23 am

I've used a LibreOffice Spreadsheet (The spreadsheet is older, originally in Excel, then OpenOffice, now LibreOffice) for all my banking needs.

First few columns are Reconciliation, Date, Description.

Then I have three for the Bank: Withdrawal, Deposit, Balance.
Then I have three columns for each of my credit cards and each of my other banks.

When I changed banks, the new bank got their own three columns.

This way I can search the Description column for any purchase I paid via check or any credit card.

Mine goes back to 1998. :beer

baliktad
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by baliktad » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:29 am

Spirit Rider wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:52 pm
The terms and conditions of many online bill payment programs, specifically exclude payment guarantees for tax payments. My local credit union and my online account both have such exclusions. The two jurisdictions that I pay property taxes to, both charge significant convenience fees for online payments.
Thank you for this explanation. I wasn't familiar with this sort of condition, and there is not even a mention of such exclusion in the extensive FAQ, but I dug up my bank's full billpay terms and you are exactly right. They will still send a check but accept no liability :(
EXCEPTION PAYMENTS

Tax payments and court ordered payments may be scheduled through the Service, however such payments are discouraged and must be scheduled at your own risk. In no event shall the Service be liable for any claims or damages resulting from your scheduling of these types of payments. The Service Guarantee as it applies to any late payment related changes is void when these types of payments are scheduled and/or processed by the Service. The Service has no obligation to research or resolve any claim resulting from an exception payment. All research and resolution for any misapplied, mis-posted or misdirected payments will be the sole responsibility of you and not of the Service.
Fidelity's BillPay terms have a similar clause and restricts even more types of payments:
The Service is not intended for use to make payments for alimony, child support, any type of insurance, taxes or other government fees or court-directed payments. You acknowledge that if you do submit a payment to one of these restricted vendors through the Service, Fidelity will not assume any liability for penalties, cancellation of coverage or any other expense, claim or damage related to nonpayment upon the processing or completion of such a payment. Any such payments are done at your own risk. While you are still able to submit such payments through the Service, they will not be covered under the Payment Guarantee in Section 13.

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Tamarind
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Tamarind » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:57 am

baliktad wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm
I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?
I'll pay anything online by card or ACH provided there is no convenience fee, but I dislike bank billpay services and have never used one. My county takes vehicle property taxes by card but the real estate department hasn't caught up yet.

I don't keep a register because I write 5-6 checks per year. But I do reconcile all transactions in Mint.

If I didn't have access to a tool like Mint, I'd probably have a speadsheet into which I could dump data from my credit card issuers, but it would be a real pain.

Katietsu
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Katietsu » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:40 am

baliktad wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm


I am shocked at how many people have eliminated checks from their lives and yet continue to write a check for property taxes. My county has a fee to pay online :annoyed but no fee to pay by check. I just use my bank's billpay, who fires off a check twice a year on the date I specify. My tax parcel number is specified as the account number, so even though my payment stub isn't included, the county still credits my account.

I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?

There is a $5 charge if the payment is not accompanied by the county’s payment voucher so using the banks online payment system would not work for me. In addition, the $5 must be paid using a separate check than the primary tax bill. So, it becomes more hassle than even the extra fee.

yousha
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by yousha » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:43 am

I have been using a checkbook for 65 years and find it safe and secure and meets all of my needs.

sport
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by sport » Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:36 am

I am surprised to learn how progressive my county is for the payment of RE taxes. They charge a fee for the use of a credit card, just like the others mentioned here. However, they have set an arrangement with one of the banks to collect the payments using ACH through that bank, even if you do not have an account at that bank. I just go on line to the county, enter my parcel number and indicate electronic payment. It takes me to the bank's site where I enter my account number at my bank, the amount I want to pay, and it is done. There is no cost for this service. The money leaves my checking account within a few days.

Glockenspiel
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Glockenspiel » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:14 pm

I write checks for daycare (in-home daycare, no sophisticated online website), and to pay my house cleaner. I might write a few other checks a year for things that demand a fee for using an online payment or credit card payment, but the vast majority are for daycare and cleaners.

ryman554
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by ryman554 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:18 pm

Edit: Wow, <facepalm>. That was a zombie post... Sorry!
mouses wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:01 am

A year or two ago I changed to keeping it in a Word document. The entries look like this:

check 1061 Dec 12 Pocasset $25
balance 621.95

check 1062 Dec 14 charlies rubbish removal $396
balance 225.95

The entries are in bold type and I change them to normal when a check is processed.

This is a lot cleaner than paper, because if I make a mistake I don't have crossouts for several items, I can just go through and change them. And for some reason I almost never make a mistake doing it this way. It is just cleaner with more space.

Once the file has gotten to be more than about a page, I archive the beginning of it with no unprocessed checks to a subfolder. If I ever need to find a check, I use Windows search.

I could use Excel so I didn't have to add and subtract, but then it would make archiving a mess.
This is something that excel is great at. One column per element: In your case 5 columns.

check 1062
Dec 14 (please make it mm/dd/yyyy)
charlies rubbish removal
$396
balance 225.95 (make it autocompute)

If you're worried about it getting too long, there is this neat thing called "autofilter". You can choose to show only the dates that you want. Or you can add a column that says "processed" and filter on that.

You're clearly comfortable doing it your way, so I'm not going to suggest you change. However, archiving is not a reason not to use excel. It's much less labor intensive than you think in excel.

Good Listener
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Good Listener » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:53 pm

To clarify as OP, I rarely write a physical check. The register is used to record transactions (including the rare check) of any type involving the checking ACCOUNT. Mostly ACHs. I do pay as many things once a year as possible to avoid monthly transactions. I just finished a checkbook. I've had it for 8 years and can quickly scan for things. I now make 3 entries most months.....my Medicare premium debit, my credit card debit and a rent payment debit. Occasional ACHs for charities and rare other things around it out. So I am planning to continue into a new one,

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Keeping a checkbook

Post by Doom&Gloom » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:57 pm

Spirit Rider wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:52 pm
baliktad wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:30 pm
I am shocked at how many people have eliminated checks from their lives and yet continue to write a check for property taxes. My county has a fee to pay online :annoyed but no fee to pay by check. I just use my bank's billpay, who fires off a check twice a year on the date I specify. My tax parcel number is specified as the account number, so even though my payment stub isn't included, the county still credits my account.

I'm very curious what reasons people continue to hand-write paper checks for property taxes, especially for those that are comfortable with online payments and/or billpay for their other bills. Is this a preference/habit thing? Enforced by your taxing authority? Are you aware your bank's billpay service could send the check for you even if your municipality doesn't 'officially' accept online payments?
The terms and conditions of many online bill payment programs, specifically exclude payment guarantees for tax payments. My local credit union and my online account both have such exclusions. The two jurisdictions that I pay property taxes to, both charge significant convenience fees for online payments.
I have not bothered to check (heh heh) on it as where I pay property taxes, it is specified that the check be made payable to the Tax Collector by name. That changes periodically--probably not something I would even bother to verify on such an infrequent occurrence. Hand-writing two checks per year. The horror!

Nowizard
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by Nowizard » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:19 pm

I keep a register and have for many, many years. Doing so now is because of two reasons: 1. Habit that has served me well, 2. It provides a history of my family in the sense that looking back at the books allows one to determine who was a particular baby sitter, when did saving for college funding begin, what absurd purchases were made, etc. It is a diary for those of us too lazy to keep a written one.

Tim

soccerrules
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Re: Keeping a checkbook register

Post by soccerrules » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:28 pm

I don't keep a checkbook register anymore.
We write 15-20 checks a year-- mainly for kids school organizations/clubs.
I use Mint to see where the money goes and to help plan for ER in 6-8 years.
Don't let your outflow exceed your income or your upkeep will be your downfall.

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