A check register is your personal record of your checking account. It’s a good idea to use your check register as a backup system even if you trust that your bank is keeping track of things for you.
You can use the paper check registers that come with your checks, or you can use an electronic system. Let’s look at how check registers work and how you can get them for free.
Why Use Check Registers?
A check register helps you stay on top of transactions in your account. Banks make mistakes, and you might too. Your check register will help you:
- Identify mistakes
- Catch identity theft
- Avoid bounced checks (and manage overdraft fees)
You should use your check register as often as possible. Enter every transaction into it. When you write a check or use your debit card, put the transaction in your check register immediately. At the least, you should save ATM and debit card receipts and enter those transactions in your check register weekly.
- Fees you paid the bank
- Interest payments from the bank
- Automatic/ACH transactions (such as direct deposit of your paycheck)
Where to Get Check Registers
You can make your check register either electronic or paper-based.
I think electronic is best, but you have to have a system for getting transactions into the check register regularly (such as saving receipts and entering them when you get home, or using your PDA or cel phone). A few ways to work electronically include:
- Build a simple check register in Microsoft Excel (easiest if you'll use a PDA, see below for column headers)
- Use pre-built spreadsheets
- Download Microsoft Excel or Google Docs templates
- Use a complete package such as Quicken
Paper checkbook registers have worked for years, and many want to keep doing it that way. You probably get registers when you order checks, and those work fine. You can also search the web for free printable check register templates (like this one), or shop Checks Unlimited:
Print Your Own Check Register
If you’d like to print your own check register so it’s the size and shape you want, just create a document with the following columns across the top:
- A small 'checkbox' field to check off items you’ve verified
- Check number (or category)
- Payment/Debit (-) - for payments, fees, and withdrawals
- Deposit/Credit (+) - for deposits, interest, and deposits