Reader Question: I never overspend – is there a benefit to balancing my checking account? Do I have to balance it exactly?
Yes, to both questions.
You balance your checkbook for two reasons:
- to prevent mistakes
- and to prevent theft.
While you may have your budget memorized, your good spending habits won’t protect you if your account is being skimmed either intentionally or by accident.
A balanced checking account shows that you and the bank agree on your purchases and deposits. You keep track and they keep track, then you compare notes.
How do you keep track? You could write everything in a check ledger, or use checks with carbon copies. If you use a debit card almost exclusively, get a portable receipt holder for your car or purse, or make sure your wallet has a spot just for debit card receipts, and please double check your receipts or keep a ledger for that as well.
Times are tough right now and skimming accounts or padding transactions has become more common. It happened to me. I recently found that a restaurant overcharged me several dollars more than what I had on my copy of the receipt. By entering a “tip” or “cash back” amount to the register, a cashier can take money for herself from your transaction.
You should also assume that the bank will make mistakes. I recently deposited a check through the ATM, but it didn’t show up in my account. I had to file a dispute to reclaim my deposit amount.
Take careful notes of online transactions as well. You may mistakenly sign up for a monthly subscription instead of a single purchase. Or maybe the online vendor is from Canada or Australia and you didn’t realize your bank would add an international transaction fee to your purchase.
Keep track and balance. It’s the only way to protect your money.