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5 ways to make balancing your checkbook easier

November 24, 2010

By Barbara Marquand | Money Rates Columnist

Unless you're gifted with keen attention to tedious detail and a love for numbers, then balancing your checkbook is probably not the highlight of your month.

But if you're still using only the paper statements your bank mails you and your check register, then it's time to join the 21st century. That, along with careful record-keeping, will make balancing your checkbook a breeze -- or at the very least tantrum-free.

Here are five ways to make the task easier:

1. Use online banking

With online banking you don't have to wait until your statement arrives in the mail. You can track your checking account weekly, or even daily to keep closer track of transactions. This helps you stay on top of the balance and note exactly when checks clear your account -- especially useful if you're one of those account holders who forgets to write things down.

2. Take advantage of automatic checking account alerts

Most banks now have automatic alert systems for savings, credit card and checking accounts to let you know by e-mail or cell phone text anytime something significant happens with your account, such as your checking balance falling below a certain level, a particular check clearing, the posting of a direct deposit or other scenarios, which you can set when you sign up for the alerts.

These alert systems also help fight fraud by keeping you informed of unusual transactions, such as an ATM withdrawal that exceeds a specified limit. Although the alerts won't balance your checkbook, they'll help you stay on top of transactions.

3. Text your bank for your checking account balance.

In between the occasions you balance your checkbook, stay on top of your balance with text banking. Sign up for the service with your bank so you can learn your checking account balance in an instant when you're on the go. Once you're enrolled in a bank's program, all you have to do is send a short text, such as BAL, and instantly get a total on your checking and savings accounts.

4. Don't forget about automatic bill payments and direct deposit.

Many banks are encouraging the use of automatic bill pay and direct deposit services as requirements to earn free checking or rewards checking. Just don't forget to keep track of the bills and deposits you've set on automatic pilot. Write down when these deposits and bill payments occur and record them in your check register at the appropriate times.

5. Record all your purchases, including those you make with your checking account debit card.

Debit cards make spending money so convenient it's easy to forget you shelled out the dough. Write down debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals when you make them and then record them in your check register.

Although you may never look forward to balancing your checking account, with the help of technology and some good record keeping habits, you won't have to dread it any longer.

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