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How to Balance Your Checking/Debit Account

Balancing your checkbook is easier than walking a tightrope, or carrying books on your head!

Balancing your checkbook means matching the amount of money you say you have with the amount of money your credit union says you have. This process is also called reconciliation.

Find a place where you can work undistracted. The reconciliation process won't take long once you've done it a few times. Here are two methods:

Paper and pencil reconciliation

This method uses a balancing form that's on the back of every monthly statement. Here's how to use it:

Deposits

  1. Insert a checkmark in your register next to all the checks and deposits listed on your statement.
  2. Enter the ending balance shown on your statement at the top of the balancing form. This is what your credit union says your account balance is, after all deposits have been added and checks subtracted.
  3. Add any deposits you made to your account that aren't listed on the statement.
  4. Enter the total sum on the deposit line.
  5. Add your account balance and deposits together to create a sub-total.
Practice on Dan's check register and credit union statements. Can you balance his account?

Outstanding checks

  1. List the check numbers and amounts of all the checks you wrote that did not appear on your statement. These are known as your outstanding checks. You may find checks that are still outstanding from previous months. Enter the outstanding check total on the line, and subtract it from your sub-total amount.
  2. This amount should be the same as the account balance in your checkbook register.

If the amount in #2 above is the same as the account balance in your checkbook register, congratulations! Your account is in balance.

If not, there's an error somewhere. Look for any checking account fees and outstanding checks from previous months. If it still doesn't balance, check your math with a calculator.

"One of the biggest mistakes teenagers make is not following the rule that you have to have the money on deposit when you write the check," says Steve Carr, vice president of business development for Boulder Valley Credit Union in Boulder, Colorado...

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