Jan 18, 2023–Do you balance your checkbook every month?

Years ago Buck Henry said he got to the point when he received his monthly bank statement, he just wrote down the amount it said he had, and never bothered to reconcile again.

To his amazement and gratification, it didn’t matter one whit.

I remember being appalled at the time. I’ve always been compulsive about tracking my spending and income, starting when I was a paperboy. It was important for me to save enough money at the end of the month to be able to purchase another HO-scale slot car.

I grew so canny (my word for frugal, my kids word for “cheap”) that I worked out the Return on Investment on my candy purchases. I tended toward the “chewy” end of the confectionary spectrum, handing over my nickels for long-lasting treats such as Slo-Pokes, Tootsie Roll Pops, and a caramelly spiral called Snirkles–“The Really Good 5¢ caramel bar”–that no longer exists. I might have bankrupted them.

For my entire life I have balanced my accounts carefully, down to the penny. I hate it. I hate everything about accounting. When I entered college, one of my mentors suggested I take a basic accounting course. I did–for one day. After reading the syllabus I ran to the Registrar and cancelled the class–well before the deadline when I would get a full refund, I might add. So maybe I did learn something from that one hour.

Over the years, I have drifted toward Buck Henry’s philosophy of banking. I no longer track down the ledgers to the penny.

Recently I had to close out two accounts and consolidate them at another bank. After much back and forth, my new account came up $59.67 short.

The old me would have retraced my steps and cornered that cash. The new, older, wiser, lazier me shrugged, entered it as “cash,” and moved on to another game of Solitaire.

I have always done my own taxes. And in case any of the new IRS agents is reading this, I have always played fair. In fact, I’ve probably overpaid. But over a career I assume it all works out, and I’ve never made enough to matter.

I used to do it by hand, painstakingly filling out the forms in pencil while asking my Dad to explain every other line.

When the first tax software came out in the era of white letters on a green screen, I bought it. Suddenly, doing taxes was a form of video gaming. It was ridiculously easy by comparison, with the app doing all the calculations. You could even play the “what if” game, using different scenarios.

(Haha, just kidding, IRS agent.)

I don’t know if I’ve gotten more relaxed. Or my needs have lessened–I haven’t bought an HO-scale slot car in awhile.

It’s easy overlooking 59 bucks if you have ample savings. But when I was waiting on a check in order to buy groceries, that money would have bought a lot of milk, mac & cheese, and white bread.

But I do have a retirement plan. If it ever gets to that point, I’ll sell all my overvalued, overtaxed property, buy a yurt, and move to a patch of grass the tourists haven’t discovered yet.

If you want to know how to reach me, ask the IRS.