"I can't really answer for him," I responded, adroitly passing the buck to my husband. "What happened? Do you want to talk about it?"
Of course, they wanted to talk about it. Both husband and wife blamed the other for the financial mismanagement with venom in their voices. Had they just two years earlier promised to honor and cherish one another? I had been at their wedding. My mind began to wander and I forced myself to focus back on the louder of the two voices who were both speaking at once.
"I called the bank to see how much was in our account..."
"Why did you call the bank?" I interrupted. "Why not look in your checkbook register?"
This shut them both up instantly and a look of confusion clouded the two young faces.
My mother raised me proper! At least when it came to keeping my check book. She taught me how to write out a check, record all transactions in the check book register, and keep a running total. She also put the fear of God into my soul. I would not dream of failing to enter a check and subtract it in the register.
Imagine my surprise to find out that many Americans do not use their check book registers. If only they had been raised by my mother! Here are some practical tips to healthy banking.
Use Your Checkbook Register Faithfully
Keep your own records. Don't rely on the bank to keep track of your money, checks, and account balances. Use the check book register and the savings account register faithfully. Do not leave the checkout line without entering the check number, amount, and date into the register. If you are prone to forgetfulness, buy duplicate checks which will leave a copy of every check in your checkbook, so that you can record the information later.
This goes for your debit card too. Record every transaction in your checking account register. Mike and I don't use our debit cards at all (we cut them up and throw them away) because we are unable to keep track of all the transactions faithfully. Be careful with debit cards!
Don't Call or Check Online for Your Account Balance
Hide money in your checking account so that you will not accidentally overdraw your account. Even the most meticulous of us will occasionally make a mistake. Once we had a paycheck bounce, causing all of the bills we had paid with checks to bounce too. After this incident, we borrowed a trick from my grandmother. We "hid" $100.00 in our checking account. It is in the account but not recorded. When we balance our checking account, we first subtract the $100.00 from the total so that everything will balance correctly. But should there be a mistake, there is a cushion to absorb the mistake.
Balance the Checkbook
Balance your checking account each month. Be faithful. Yes, this is a boring task, but manageable if you do it each month. There is nothing more overwhelming than having six or more months of bank statements to balance. Don't worry...we'll tackle this topic in another article!
POD (Payable on Death)
Make all your bank accounts Payable on Death (POD) so that, should anything happen to you, the money goes immediately to your heirs. You simply list the heirs that you want your money to go to if you die. All of our accounts are joint accounts in both my husband's name and my own name. Then these accounts are POD to all five of our children. Technically, all our accounts have seven people listed on them. This has the added benefit of increasing the amount of money that can be in our account and still be FDIC insured. Not that we have that much, but, hey, should the Lord bless...
Remember the Basics
Yes, there are things that you can do to find the best account, highest interest rate, and free checking, but these practical tips are the very basics to healthy banking. If you can learn to manage your checking account with diligence and integrity, you will save yourself a lot of headaches in the future. Remember, that the cost of bounced checks and late fees add up quickly. Learning these simple habits will decrease the chances of costly mistakes drastically.
As in all things, bank and manage your accounts to the glory of God!
Merey (Meredith Ludwig Curtis)