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The Balancing Act

Writing stuff down. For college students, it seems like this never stops. Writing notes in class, writing papers for homework and writing appointments so they remember them.

But one of the most important things to record is the transaction of one’s checkbook. With so many stores accepting debit cards and people receiving check-cashing cards, there are more receipts to record than ever before.

Junior Chris Bertels said he keeps his receipts, and about once a week, he records them in his checkbook. He said his checkbook is mostly balanced.

“Sometimes I lose a receipt here and there,” he said.Teresa McDougall, assistant vice president for the USF Credit Union, said the No. 1 problem when people bounce checks is when people write checks before they deposit money.

“A lot of people don’t record every transaction,” McDougall said. She said using the ATM as an indicator of someone’s balance is a poor way of checking account statements because, often, purchases have not been cleared.

One problem with students who have an account at the USF Credit Union, McDougall said, is that they use their USF ID cards to make purchases and often these transactions are forgotten. She also said everyone should check his or her bank statement each month. Doing so, combined with recording every transaction made, should make for a perfectly balanced checkbook.

“If you do those two things you shouldn’t have a problem,” she said.

Another advantage to reading through the monthly bank statements is they serve as a reminder of any monthly charges. They can also serve to remind someone if he or she forgot to record a purchase.

Senior Marissa Boyd said she shares a checking account with her husband, but although both make purchases with the one account, they don’t have problems with knowing how much money they have.

“We tell each other what transactions were made,” she said. “We just try to remember what I’ve done on any transaction.”She said her husband double-checks the statement each month, and they are rarely off balance.

Another important factor in balancing checkbooks is to ensure checks do not bounce. According to the Consumer Federation of America, banks earn about $5 billion in bounced check fees each year.

According to , people should wait a few days after depositing money into their account before writing a check to ensure the money is there. Organization is the key. The Web site says to keep all receipts organized and updated regularly.

McDougall said at times people come in and think their check was cashed for a different amount, but the bank keeps a copy of each check, and it can be shown to the customer.

“If you enter (a transaction) at that time, the negative balance doesn’t snowball,” McDougall said. “The whole key is really keeping track of every transaction. There are so many people out there who do not keep a balanced register.”

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