How many archaic things do we do which are “no longer” necessary?
Have you shoed your horse lately? I imagine there are a few equestrians out there who could say “yes.” But, for the rest of us, that doesn’t apply.
Now, let’s talk about balancing the checkbook. I haven’t done so in years! Exactly what is the purpose? Now that I’ve got your attention, read on…
Let’s first explore why one (previously) had the need to balance the checkbook. Essentially, we needed to confirm that the balance we had been tracking in our “offline” / paper checkbook matched the monthly statement received from our bank. Often, we found a “surprise” in the form of an ATM withdrawal we forgot to record or that we had recorded an inaccurate amount. On occasion, this resulted in a check bouncing, incurring a bounced check fee and some mild embarrassment. I hate that!
Today’s reality – We no longer have to wait for a monthly statement from the bank to know what our balances are. We have access to “up-to-the-minute” balances on a 24×7 basis as each of our financial institutions provide online access to our accounts via their (individual) websites. More importantly, however, there are tools which can be used to aggregate this information into a single view. I’ve used lots of tools including MS Money (now dead), Quicken, etc. The tool that I’ve found most useful is Mint.com. Intuit (the maker of Quicken) offers Mint, online, FOR FREE. I love that!
Following are “some” of the benefits I’ve found with using Mint:
- You can view the “real-time” balances of ALL your accounts (banking, credit card, investments, loans, etc.) from one screen on your computer and smartphone.
- You can setup payments you have scheduled to make in the future, as well as bill reminders.
- You can review your checking account register, just like you would the old, crusty paper edition.
- You can setup and monitor a budget and financial-related goals.
- Setup takes less than an hour (for dozens of accounts).
- Mint ONLY takes “inputs” from the user, and their financial institutions. That is, transactions (to pay someone, for example) cannot be initiated from Mint. This is a great security feature which gave me comfort knowing that if someone were to hack into my account the “worse” thing they could do was view my stuff. They cannot process transactions on my behalf.
- It is “in the cloud” so you can access your financials from anywhere / anytime.
- And, finally, did I mention? It is free!
So, if up-to-the-minute balances are available for ALL of our financial accounts, in one location (much better than individual checking and/or saving registers) why go through the monthly process of reconciling? When using tools like Mint we are automatically reconciling each time we access the tool as all our accounts are automatically updated with transactions from all our financial institutions. We can view our balances, the transactions that have already occurred, transactions we have scheduled as well as reminders of things that are upcoming that we need to attend to.
Give it a try. You’ll find that you have much better / accurate information on your financial standing, and you’ll get time back in your life that you would have otherwise spent shoeing a dead horse.