One day I’ll sit my children down around the fire and tell them about the olden days before the internet, when you had to go to the bank to withdraw or deposit money and keep track of your balance on a funny little thing called a “register.” And yes, we used to pay with things with dirty little pieces of paper called “cash” – not debit cards.
Even now you might wonder why you need to balance your checkbook and keep a register when you can access this online or from your phone. There’s a few reasons you should have this skill. First, even banks make mistakes. Wait, let me rephrase that: especially banks make mistakes. If you keep your own records, while it’s not totally solid or legal proof of your case, it will help you more quickly pinpoint the problem if something goes wrong. Second, most banks have delays of several business days until credit and debit transactions are posted, so when you check your balance, you may think it reflects purchases you’ve already made when it doesn’t. And finally, if you record your spending, you’re less likely to make unnecessary spending and you’ll have a better idea where your money goes when you’re ready to put together a realistic budget.
I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago when I got lazy and just checked by available balance occasionally withouth keeping tabs on my own. I overdrafted myself because I didn’t notice a paycheck bounced when my company switched payroll accounts. Had I been keeping track like I should have, I would have noticed the mistake earlier and I wouldn’t have incurred so many fees.