A check ledger or check register definition is a log of the transactions made on a checking account. Traditionally, check registers were kept with pen and paper and often included with a paper checkbook. Now that debit card, ATM and online transactions have become more prevalent, it's also common to keep track of banking transactions using a spreadsheet or online database.
Checkbook Register Definition
A checkbook register is a document used to record all of the transactions affecting your checking account. If you have a paper checkbook with your account, it will often come with a checkbook register you can use to record the date, amount and other party involved in every transaction on your account.
You can use the checkbook register to record the amount of any check you write and any deposit you make using the checks and deposit slips included in the checkbook. If a deposit doesn't process properly or someone you send a check doesn't deposit it immediately, your checkbook register ensures you have a clean record of these transactions.
You may wish to specifically mark certain transactions, such as business purchases, medical expenses or purchases on behalf of a dependent, if they will have a special significance when you seek reimbursement from an employer or file your taxes.
Logging your transactions can be useful for your own records and will also be useful if you ever become ill or pass away and your relatives or heirs need to be able to understand your finances.
Recording Digital Transactions
To make sure your register is fully up to date, you'll also want to record any electronic transactions to your register. This can include automatic deductions to pay bills, direct deposits of your paycheck or other payments and purchases you make with your debit card. ATM withdrawals and deposits can also be recorded to your checkbook register.
Since you likely won't carry your register with you as you go about your life, and may not have time to immediately make a note of every transaction you make at the time you make it, save receipts and use them to update your checkbook register later in the day.
Keeping an Electronic Record
If you prefer the convenience of a digital record, you can keep your check register digitally rather than on paper. This may make the ledger easier to share with others and to perform automated computations on.
You can download a template for spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel to develop a check register or you can create one yourself using a tool of your choice. As with a paper register, log the date, party and amount of each transaction, along with any notes you need to remember the nature of the payment or deposit.
As with other important electronic records, make sure your digital transaction log is properly backed up and stored securely to prevent anyone unwanted from getting access to your financial data.
Balancing Your Checkbook
Balancing your checkbook is a process used to verify that your checkbook records match your bank's.
When you receive your monthly statement, take your balance from your previous month's statement and add in all the deposits from your checkbook register. Subtract any debits from your account recorded in the register, including checks written, ATM and teller withdrawals and debit card transactions.
Compare the number to the balance on your bank statement. If there's a discrepancy, see if there are transactions in your records that aren't yet reflected in the statement. If that doesn't resolve the issue, see if a transaction was recorded by the bank in the wrong amount or if the bank has an erroneous transaction on your statement.
Gather your records and contact your bank if there's a discrepancy in the numbers.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.