Reading the paper today, I noticed a complaint about a very basic issue- balancing our checkbooks. More specifically, people having trouble are looking to the computer for some friendly program to help. Though this should be a pretty simple problem, it seems finding a solution is difficult. It was for me, until I stumbled across a solution many years ago.

Making a workable Excel/Quattro spreadsheet for your checkbook is a little harder than it seems. I found a handy program written by Joe Barta called “Simple Checkbook” . I’ve used it for longer than I can remember. In fact, I’m still using version 1.0 (it’s now up to v2.1, but I haven’t used it yet).

It was a revelation. My bookkeeping was so bad before I found this that it was simpler to close a bank account and open a new one in another bank, rather than try to figure-out the numerical mess I’d created. Once I found this spreadsheet, and figured-out how to work-around it’s one drawback (reconciliation see below), I’ve had perfect balance every time. Not only does it seem easier to find incorrect entries , I’ve even found a bank mistake with it (and felt confident enough to back up my claim using this spreadsheet as evidence).

One caveat, if you need to reconcile you account and some older transactions haven’t yet cleared before newer ones, simply moving the entry will corrupt the entire sheet. Remember, it’s a spreadsheet, not a stand-alone program. It has limits. However, there’s a technique I use to keep this from happening.

Copy the date, description, debit, and credit entries to the next open line after the statement date. Then, leaving the date intact for the old entry , “0” out the credit/debt entries and type “MOVED” (or whatever) into the description. Because Barta’s code keys off the date entry, this old line will act as a placeholder for the calculations and keep everything after the entry from being corrupted.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and start deleting stuff. But, I hope you’re an expert in Excel formulas. You’ll have a lot of repairs to do. But, no one can complain too much about this, especially for a free program. Yes, I said FREE. Not adware, not spyware. Not cripple-ware, shareware, or a virus. Just free.

If you follow this procedure, you’ll have years of perfectly balanced checkbooks. And, if you’re like me, a perfectly balanced checkbook is a very novel concept.

Pic from