Why You Still Need To Know How To Balance A Checkbook

Paper may be going by the wayside, but there are still times when you'll need a check.

Surely my fellow Gen Z-ers will cower with me in fear at the thought of balancing a checkbook. This is one thing I can file away under "never learned how to do" along with changing a tire, ironing clothes, lighting a real match, and a host of other things that might make you gasp. Keeping a balanced checkbook is a pretty important task though, and it has benefits. Here's why knowing how to balance a checkbook is still a good idea.

A Relevant Skill

The checkbook lives in my childhood memories as something "for the grown-ups." At my parents' house, it was always the little leather, rectangular book buried in a nondescript place on my father's desk. It came out because, newsflash, you could pay for things with it. But the only thing my child brain registered was the endless rows of numbers and the funny cartoon characters on the actual check.

Now, the fact that I am now a grown-up—legally, at least—has not, however, propelled me to order my own checks. Ever since getting my own bank account, I've done everything on my phone. I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed a check. Making the effort to have a proper checkbook honestly seemed kind of pointless. But it's not a thing of the past.

 woman writes in checkbook

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Why Balancing a Checkbook Is Important

So why should everyone still know how to balance a checkbook? Yes, paper does seem to be going by the wayside, but as I've learned, there are still some instances (I'm looking at you, government) in which a check is needed and is the only possible form of payment. You might need to pay the plumber or be patronizing a small business that takes cash and checks only. If you're starting your own small business, you might need to pay the local government administrative fees. These are just a few examples, but the lesson is clear: We can't be caught unawares!

The other reason knowing how to balance a checkbook is essential? It's always good to know where you stand. Bounced checks and overdrawn accounts aren't fun, and they're a little embarrassing.

When you balance your checkbook (which simply means you have a ledger of expenses, income, credits, and the like), you're also protecting yourself from bank and merchant errors. Having to account for the books helps you see where your money is going and can help you budget better. Even if you are keeping track of transactions online or with mobile apps, it's important to record those transactions to compare them with your monthly statements and to keep track of expenses.

How to Balance a Checkbook

If you're still feeling a little intimidated at the thought of looking at a pile of numbers (or, maybe, confronting all the money you've spent at Chick-fil-A this month), don't be. I've found that after doing a little research, it's not as bad as I've made it out to be in my mind. Here's an easy way to get started.

  • Begin with your current balance as it stands will all debits and credits accounted for.
  • Keep a record of all your transactions from that point forward. This includes ATM withdrawals, expenses and purchases, income, deposits, interest you may earn, and any other amounts that factor themselves into your bank account. Record any receipts that affect your bank account.
  • Remember to record these transactions, whether or not you wrote a paper check. The point of balancing your checkbook is to know how much is in your account when you need to write a check.
  • Reconcile your checkbook with your bank statement every so often. The more frequently you do so, the better and less overwhelming the task is. But if you do put it off, don't do so for longer than a month.

Not too bad, is it? You may find that you've actually been balancing your books all along—maybe it was just online. Now that you know you've been doing it, paper isn't so scary. So run along and order yourself some checks. Just make sure they're fun ones.

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