44° Good Evening
44° Good Evening

Technology, and why you don’t need to balance your checkbook

Many financial transactions no longer require paper statements.

Many financial transactions no longer require paper statements. For instance, you can arrange for your tax refund to be deposited directly into your bank account using a smartphone. Credit: AP / Jae C. Hong

Technology has obliterated or automated a lot of the money tasks that were once mandatory for people who wanted to be responsible with their finances. If you do any of the following chores, you can and should do them a lot differently now:

  • Balance your checkbook

Once upon a time, you got a paper statement each month from your bank. You compared the transactions on that statement with what you’d recorded in your check register, adding in any deposits and subtracting any checks or other transactions that hadn’t posted by the time the statement was printed. Then you spent the next hour trying to figure out why the totals didn’t match.

These days, though, we write far fewer checks, most transactions post pretty quickly and bank errors are rare. We still need to monitor our accounts to spot bogus transactions, keep track of our balances and avoid overdrafts, but the monthly ritual of trying to reconcile a statement to a register is pretty much obsolete.

  • Save paperwork

The IRS accepts electronic documents, and so does nearly everyone else.

You can reduce the paperwork that comes into your home by opting for electronic statements and receipts whenever possible. Services such as FileThis can automatically download electronic statements into your computer, relieving you of this chore each month. Virtually any document you get in paper form can be scanned; paper receipts needed for tax purposes should be, since many receipts fade over time otherwise and become unreadable. Back up your computer regularly to a secure online service, or to a disk or drive you can store off site.

The only documents you absolutely need to keep in paper form are those that are a hassle to replace, such as birth, marriage and death certificates.

  • Visit a bank

Get this: People used to stand in lines to give banks their money. I kid you not.

Today, direct deposit is the safe, automated way to deposit paychecks, while other checks can be deposited with your bank’s smartphone app. Most other chores, such as applying for a loan, can be done faster and more easily online.

  • Create a budget

It’s still important to have a plan for where your future money will go and to compare your expenditures against that plan to avoid overspending.

But you no longer have to start from scratch, sifting through a pile of statements and receipts to craft a budget. Account aggregation sites such as Mint can analyze months’ worth of transactions to help you create a spending plan, monitor your progress and warn you when you’re about to overspend in a given category.

There’s an app for that

People used to keep a driving log, usually handwritten, to track their mileage if they wanted to be reimbursed or to deduct the expense in your business. You had to include dates and miles driven, plus where you went and the business purpose of the trip.

Fortunately, most of the hassle has been automated away now with mileage-tracking apps such as MileIQ that record when and where you drove. You swipe right to classify a trip as business or left to deem it personal. The app lets you assign a specific purpose, such as a commute between offices, customer visit, meeting, travel, etc.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More news