Balancing My Checkbook - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

Balancing My Checkbook


I am one of those rare beasts who actually enjoys balancing her checkbook.  It might have been Mrs. Turley's excellent fourth grade instruction of math, or perhaps I'm just a bit of a masochist, but I kind of love getting all my bills together, writing out checks or checking my automated debits, and subtracting the money going out from the money I have.  I have been known to pour myself a glass of wine and get a nice chunk of dark chocolate or good cheese to go along with my checkbook balancing.  If I could figure out a way to pay bills and pad my savings account in a bubble bath, that would probably be the ultimate relaxation experience for me.

I know, there's something wrong with me.

There are several benefits to this kind of money nerddom.  First, Mrs. Turley would be proud because I have kept my simple mathematical skills sharp.  I can add and subtract in my head, but to double check the math, I'll have random bits of paper all over my desk with barely legible equations scribbled all over them.  (Once I've completed the math necessary for a particular debit or credit to my account, I cannot usually make heads or tails of the numbers on subsequent viewings.)

Second, I've been able to follow my interests in terms of jobs.  (Other folks have described this as "Emily just quits jobs she doesn't like!" but it's really semantics).  Since I've always known pretty much to the penny how much is in my checking account, I could decide to leave the (relatively) lucrative office job that was sucking out my soul in exchange for becoming an AmeriCorps Volunteer and sometime bookseller.  I was still eating ramen every night at the time, but I knew exactly how much money the ramen was saving me.

Third, you can wake me up from a dead sleep and ask how much money is in my account, and I'll probably be able to give you a pretty good estimate.  I have no idea how this translates to a real world benefit, but I think it could be a neat party trick for the world's dullest party.

There are some downsides to the fact that I balance my checkbook something like four times a week.  Remember those unintelligible numbers I mentioned above?   Yeah, sometimes I have no idea what the heck I was doing the first time around and then think I've "lost" money somewhere.  This prompts a hunt for the money which I then take the time to reverse, transfer back or otherwise reclaim into my checking account, only to find that prior me knew what the heck she was doing and now me has to go through and fix my fixes. It's a great use of my time doing all of this, let me tell you.

This happened when I donated $100 to my sister's yoga-thon to benefit lung cancer research and made a notation of my sister's name in the transaction description line, assuming I'd know what it was for later on.  (I should know me better than that by now, but it's nice to know that I can still surprise myself.)  When the lung cancer folks (whose name was abbreviated to something that did not register as a lung cancer charity in my short-term-memory-impaired brain) actually debited $100 from my account, I contested the charges.  The cancer research folks were very nice and gave me the money back.  As that transaction was going through, I realized what a bonehead I was being, and had to call the nice people who are trying to save lives back one more time and tell them to please re-take my boneheaded money.

If I could figure out what type of stuff I was likely to forget, I could leave notes for myself and reassure myself that the choices I made were correct the first time around, but of course, I'm not that predictable.  And I might not be able to make sense of the note, anyway.

Overall, despite some very notable exceptions, I feel my money management is pretty good.  After all, this has only happened once:

And she only ordered a pizza with her mis-gotten gains.


How do you handle your finances?  Are there any other wine-drinking, donation-forgetting money nerds out there?



Kassy said:

You bet I'm a wine-drinking  nerd just like you! I love balancing my check-book too! Rather than wine, I light a candle before I do my bill paying etc.. Unlike you I don't do the math in my head...I use a calculator. Tuesdays are my day for this activity. Even if all bills are paid etc., I spend time reworking or rehashing or looking over the monthly budget to be sure I'm on track (or off).

Glad to hear there is someone else doing these nutty things!

November 9, 2011 12:45 AM

Emily Guy Birken said:

Apparently, my grandmother was just like this, too.  If her transaction register was off by a few cents, she'd go on a hunt for the missing pennies and re-emerge triumphant when she discovered the math error or banking error.  The rest of the family thought she was weird.  Strange what family legacies one can inherit.

November 9, 2011 4:15 PM

hannahski said:

I love balancing the checkbook as well.  My drink of choice is tea or I'd be afraid of adding money instead of subtracting (I have a very low tolerance)  :)  I light my one real indulgence, Yankee Candles and play a favorite CD.  Plus my husband thinks I'm a hero for handling the finances.  Double-win!!  


November 14, 2011 9:29 AM

Live Like a Mensch said:

Idyllic photo courtesy of Onderwijsgek Back in college, I discovered the secret to guilt-free procrastination

November 14, 2012 5:07 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

An old friend from college recently emailed me to ask a question about cash envelope budgeting . What

December 21, 2012 5:27 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

This afternoon, I sat down to reconcile my check register with my bank account. I generally do this about

January 3, 2013 5:33 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

I feel like this picture from our wedding is an excellent metaphor for how J and I handle our money.

June 18, 2013 2:54 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

Online banking can be a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we are now able to pay our bills online

October 25, 2013 9:07 AM

Live Like a Mensch said:

While I have established my credentials in other areas of frugal athleticism such as checkbook balancing

February 12, 2014 3:18 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

I seem to have a bit of a time management problem. (As a matter of fact, I have multiple time management

March 5, 2014 11:31 AM

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