I am a bit old school when it comes to my banking habits sometimes. I still maintain a check register, old school pen and paper style with the little booklet thing with checks in it. There has been more than one occasion when co-workers noticed me balancing it at my desk at work and commented on it as well. In todays world where few people use cash or checks anymore and basically everything is done with a piece of plastic, including being able to pay a $0.25 parking meter in the city, it is very strange to see someone using a pen to balance their account. There are a few reasons I still do it that way though.
1. Reflecting on your life
Going line by line every two weeks or even every month reminds me of what I spent my money on. Sometimes I look and think… geez! I didn’t realize the number of times I went out to eat the last couple weeks. I track every penny I spend and I follow a budget I set for the month, so I know I budgeted for it, but it sometimes influences my decision for the next month to eat a bit healthier. I also do not want money to just slip away without me knowing where it went. I lived the other way where I “knew about what was left in my account” and when I finally started planning my month I discovered there was a lot of money just vanishing somehow because I was magically able to do more once I tracked it all.
2. Fitness: Avoid being “fat and stupid”
Not physical fitness, I go running and biking for that, but for mental fitness. Society (at least in Colorado) has a high value and focus on physical fitness, there is an obesity issue in this country, so it is great that people are making the efforts to get in shape and maintain a level of fitness to live a longer and healthier life. But, there are a lot of people who are neglecting their mental fitness. I do not want to be able to run a marathon when I’m 70, but not remember that I had even signed up for the marathon or where I parked my car so I can get home from it. So, when I balance my checkbook, I am a calculator… I am “a person who calculates or computes”. Even if it is only a once a month exercise in basic addition and subtraction, it will help keep your brain sharp, just like doing just a few minutes a day of physical exercise will pay dividends when you are old.
3. The pen is mightier than the electron
Maybe it is a sign that I identify more with Gen X than I do with Millennials, but I miss putting ink on paper sometimes. I grew up writing book reports, not typing them. I was lucky that I had a computer when I was very young, so I typed some and wrote some. There were actually some teachers who would not allow you to turn in a typed paper because they knew your hand writing and it was a way to know YOU physically did the work and not your parent. I spend more time on a computer than most people, including millennials who are glued to their phones. I might not be glued to my phone, but I have a smart phone, work IMs in addition to txts come to it, I am a software engineer and often find myself even doing work at 11pm at night at times, I have an android radio/media center in my car that also gets my txt’s and emails as well, and I type all the blogs on this site as well. So, perhaps it is a small way for me to exercise my handwriting skills, to put that pen to paper and scratch things out. Sometimes I wish I could do it in pencil, I miss the scratching sound of a hard led #2 pencil sometimes too.
If you still balance your checkbook, would love to know why you do it, comment below and share. If you current do not, give it a try for a couple months, even if it’s just on a legal pad initially, you might fall in love with your suppressed accounting self… or not. Either way, if you try it let me know, positive or negative experiences. Yes, I also know there are apps and software and all that fancy stuff to do it for you (I have even written accounting software in the past as part of my job), but try it manually, you might like it.