How to Balance a Checkbook

How to Balance a Checkbook

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Balancing your checkbook can give you a firm knowledge of how much money is in your account. It can help prevent you from bouncing checks, make up a simple budget, and detect errors from your bank.


  1. Keep a check register. Write down all transactions, not just checks.
  • Many checking accounts come with a simple check register booklet that you can use.
  • If you do not have one, buy or make one. A preprinted booklet is handy, but even a blank sheet of lined paper will do.
  • 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. 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”. (Click any image to enlarge it.)
  • Record all transactions .
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 into or out of the account.
  • Regularly recalculate the balance in the account. You can do this at each transaction, or you can do this less frequently, for example when you sit down to do bills. If you have a history of bounced check, you should do this at every transaction or every other transaction.
    • 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.
  • Write the new balance after each transaction in the rightmost column.
  • Reconcile your checkbook when your statement arrives.
    • Add any interest that the bank has paid you.
    • Subtract any fees that the bank has charged you.
    • Check that the transactions in your account register match what the bank says you did.
  • Correct mistakes. If you find any discrepancies between your numbers and your bank’s numbers, figure out where they came from.
    • Check your math. Make sure you added and subtracted everything correctly since the checkbook last balanced 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 has probably not been accounted for correctly yet.
    • 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’s already cleared.
    • Bring errors to the attention of your bank, if you find them. Often, a phone call or visit can clear up confusion about errors or inappropriate fees.
  • Tips

    • You may wish to use two lines for each transaction so that you have additional space to write. Whichever method you choose, be consistent.
    • If you have two or more people making payments from the same account, touch base with each other as often as possible so you can each record the payments in your individual checkbooks.
    • Balancing your checkbook is an excellent opportunity to total up the amount of money you spend each month and look for ways that you could save money next month.
    • Keep a separate register for each account you wish to track.
    • Try to save up a “cash cushion”, some minimum amount of money that you save in case of emergencies. Then, try not to let your balance drop below this point.
    • For many accounts, maintaining a specified minimum balance can help you to avoid account fees. Some banks also waive fees if you have direct deposit of your paycheck. Read the fine print and ask your bank if you’re not sure about the fees they charge.
    • For better record keeping, you should know the bank’s clearing schedule. Local checks and non local checks clear differently. Most local checks clear in 2 business days AFTER the day of the deposit. Most non local checks clear 5 days after the day of the deposit. Knowing when the funds are available to withdrawal will keep you from overdrawing your account.


    • Some banks take time to post debit card purchases to your account so you must keep track of these the same way you track your checks.
    • Expect checks and other payments that have not cleared yet to clear soon. Just because the money is still in your account doesn’t mean you should spend it again if you already have.
    • Checks that your deposit may likewise take some time to “post”; that is, the money may not appear in your account immediately. Some banks offer provisional credit from the deposit, and some don’t.

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