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Check out Your Checking Account: 3 Easy Steps for Mastering Checking Management

Some people only recognize two financial modes:

  1. Spend like there’s no tomorrow, or
  2. Never let a single penny out of sight.

While the former spending personality receives the most flak from personal finance gurus, it is equally dangerous to develop a hoarding mentality regarding money. In truth, balanced spending is most advantageous — but it takes work to develop a healthy relationship with your checking account.

Checking account management isn’t complex, but if you constantly find yourself surprised by what you have in the bank, you likely need some checking guidance. This post will help you get a hold on your personal finances by walking you through the checking account management process.

Step 1: Obtain a Checking Account

This step seems easy — after all, every bank under the sun is desperate to add new customers. However, choosing the right checking account for you can be tricky. Checking accounts come in a variety of shapes and colors; for example, at a typical bank, you can usually choose from the following checking account options:

  • A no-interest checking account with a monthly service charge and a checking limit
  • An interest-bearing checking account with a minimum balance
  • A free checking account with a minimum balance, unlimited checks, and no service fee
  • A student checking account, which often boasts free checking, a free debit card, and free ATM usage
  • A joint checking account that allows multiple owners
  • A combination checking and savings account, sometimes called a money market account, which requires a high minimum deposit, pays interest, and has a tight limit on checking

Though some options are more common than others — for example, you can find free checking accounts in NJ, CA, AK, and almost everywhere else — there are instances when the less common accounts might be advantageous. For example, if you have outrageous amounts of liquid cash, need fast access to that cash, but want your money to grow, a money market account might be valuable.

You should consider talking to a banker to determine the best checking account option for you. The value of carefully choosing your checking account shouldn’t be understated; the right features make managing your account significantly easier and ensure that you aren’t overpaying for features you don’t need or want. Once you have the perfect account set up, you can begin cultivating the habits that will keep your checking account in hand.

 Step 2: Develop Discipline

Discipline is an essential element of strong personal finance. Managing your checking account requires diligence in maintaining records, spending appropriately, and saving, and too many disruptive behaviors can quickly derail your efforts and send your finances into chaos.

The best way to develop discipline with your checking account is to develop a strong, effective plan that eliminates uncertainty and possibilities for misbehavior. A successful monthly budget should help you find balance in necessary expenditures, enjoyable spending, and saving, so your checking account can feel more secure. If you need a plan that offers even less wiggle room — i.e. if your discipline is exceedingly weak — you might try the envelope budgeting method, which will give you time away from your checking account and help you develop the psychological fortitude to manage your finances well.

Once you have some practice with a budget, you might notice that you spend more mindfully. This is your discipline kicking in. However, to ensure that your financial discipline remains strong, you must continue to flex it. This might mean continuing to educate yourself about systems and strategies for personal finance and using new and useful tools offered by your checking account provider.

Step 3: Use Available Tools

Fortunately, technology has drastically improved banking, so you have access to dozens of tools to help manage your checking account. Online banking alone offers free, immediate access to your checking balance and spending records, and mobile banking does the same from anywhere at any time. Though it is still useful to collect receipts and maintain your own spending records — to verify your bank and recognize fraudulent charges sooner — these tools make account management fast and easy.

Additionally, you should consider taking advantage of bill pay tools. A service provided by your bank, money is automatically moved from your checking account and sent to pay designated bills, such as your mortgage or rent, your utilities, your phone bill, and more. This can help ensure that your essential spending is taken care of.

Everyone’s financial needs are different, but one truth remains universal: You need to manage your checking account. Refusing to monitor your checking account is ensuring that your money isn’t working its hardest to improve your lifestyle. By managing your checking account through the above steps, you will gain greater financial freedom and security.

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