Balance Your Checkbook with 8 Simple Steps
- Many checking accounts come with a simple check register in which to record transactions.
- If you do not have one, you can buy or make one. Even a blank sheet of lined paper will do.
1. The first step in balancing your checkbook is to keep a check register.
Write down all transactions, not just checks.
- Remember that there may be checks or electronic debits that haven't cleared yet, so today's figure, while correct, could be missing part of the story. Keep an eye on your account and check the balance regularly. Also, read your next statement carefully when it arrives and incorporate any transactions you may have missed.
2. Find out your current balance
on the account you wish to track. You can get this from a bank statement, ATM ticket, or by phoning or visiting the bank (which may carry a fee). Write this balance in the box at the top of the page or on the empty first line with a note such as "balance forward."
- Record all checks that you write. Write down the check number, the date, the payee (who you write the check to), and the amount of the check.
3. Record all transactions.
- Record any withdrawals or payments you make from that account. If you withdraw money from the bank or ATM, or if you purchase something using an ATM or debit card, write down the amount of the purchase as well as any ATM/Debit card fees.
- Record any bills you pay online. If your online bill payment service gives you a confirmation code, you may wish to jot this code in your check register alongside the payee information.
- Record any deposits or transfers of money to subtract or add to the account balance, as applicable.
- Subtract the amount of any expense, payment, check, or withdrawal from the total.
- Subtract any transfer out of the account.
- Add the amount of any deposit, credit, or transfer into the account to the total.
4. Regularly recalculate the balance
Regularly recalculate the balance in your checkbook. You can do this for each transaction. Or you can do this less frequently, such as when you sit down to do bills. If you have a history of bounced checks, you should do this at every transaction or every other transaction.
5. Write the new balance after each transaction in the far right column.
- Add any interest that the bank has paid you.
- Subtract any fees that the bank has charged you.
- Verify that the transactions in your account register match what the bank statement indicates.
6. Balance your checkbook when your statement arrives.
- Check your math. Make sure you added and subtracted everything correctly.
- Look for missing transactions. Did you forget to write something down?
- Subtract the balance in your check register from the balance on the statement. Does the amount match the amount of one of the transactions? If so, that transaction probably has not been accounted for.
- Find out if all your checks have cleared. The money taken out for checks and certain other payments may not be taken out immediately. If you think a check or other payment has not yet cleared, subtract the amount of that check from the bank's balance and see if it matches yours. One way to stay on top of this is to check your account regularly and put check marks next to every check that has already cleared.
- If you find errors, bring them to the attention of your bank. Often, a phone call or visit can clear up confusion about errors or inappropriate fees.
7. Correct mistakes.
If you find any discrepancies between your numbers and your bank's numbers, figure out where they came from.
8. Finish balancing your checkbook.
Once everything is balanced in your checkbook, you may want to draw double lines under the balanced amount in your check register. That way, the next time you balance your account, you have an idea of the last known correct amount in your register. This helps figure out where an error is in the check register the next time you balance your checkbook.