Balance Your Checkbook, Check Register
Why is balancing your checkbook more difficult today?
1. In 2004, banking law governing the handling of checks changed. Checks don't have to be returned. Pictures of checks are returned, but only for checks that pass through the bank.
2. More institutions are filing checks electronically, removing the money directly from your checking account. No check picture is created.
Because physical checks are no longer being returned, it's now more difficult to reconcile a checkbook with a bank statement. You have to look at the pictures, or read the check numbers on the statement, and for some checks there isn't even a picture.
For the person who only writes a few checks each month, and who still maintains an interest in balancing their checkbook, the new law is a great leap backwards.
Two checkbook balancing philosophies:
A) UK: don't bother balancing your checkbook, trust your bank.
Add money to your checking account each month to maintain a positive balance. The Brits never ever balance a checkbook.
B) USA: balance your checkbook every month.
If you know how much money you have, you don't have a lot of money. A lot of Americans want to know how little they have.
Commercial checkbook software:
Anyone running a business, in which they sign all the checks, will want a more sophisticated single- ended bookkeeping system (like Quicken or M$ Money) for easier tracking of expenditure categories.
Commercial software is overkill for most non-business users. It does more things than we need done. It is easier, not to say cheaper, to create a check register in a spreadsheet.
If you don't already have a household budget, a check register can be a first step toward creating one. If you're consistent in naming payees (Electric Co always Electric, not Power Co), it is easy to sort your checks into categories to see where you're spending your money.
The spreadsheet check register's 4 parts:
Check Register | Deposits-Fees | Reconciliation | Notes&Docs
The check registry will accomodate 170+ checks, (more than I write in a year). If you write more checks, the Register and Deposit area's formulas can be extended down the page. Change the Reconciliation area's ranges to include the additional cells.
Like any similar checkbook program, the spreadsheet must start out in balance.
The spreadsheet is not a tutorial on how to balance a checkbook. Paper checking account statements usually have instructions and a worksheet on the back. If you still don't know how, ask your local banker to show you how.
Two ways to use the spreadsheet:
1. Clear check entries monthly. Start each month with a clean slate, reentering checks that haven't cleared or, alternatively, by deleting checks that have cleared. Or,
2. Add checks each month. Keep cleared and uncleared checks in the registry for later sorting into expense categories. Recommended.
How it works:
The formulas in the Reconciliation area automatically sum checks and deposits, and provides a difference - which will be zero (no difference) when the statement balance agrees with your checkbook balance.
Use Data, Fill to place sequential check numbers in the left column.
For each check number, enter the date, the Payee's name, the dollar amount, and in the ''Cleared? y/n'' column, ''n''o or ''y''es, depending. Institutions extracting electronic funds do it upon receipt of a check. Checks that have cleared will be listed in the monthly statement.
Deposits, interest paid (if any), and fees are handed similarly.
Enter the monthly statement balance in the Reconciliation area.
Download the spreadsheet:
The spreadsheet is furnished in two common file formats, XLS and WK1. They are identical in function and will open in any industrial strength spreadsheet, including OpenOffice.org's Calc (where XLS is preferred).
Even a simple spreadsheet application like this one can appear formidable when it's not populated with data. Recommended: download the demo first.
None. This is freeware. Use it at your own risk.