Stop Using Checks

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Stop Using Checks

Many of you have already taken the advice I'm about to impart. If that's you, congratulations. You win a million dollars. I'll mail you a check. Oh wait. I don't use checks. Never mind.

I have always hated writing checks. Even way back in the 80's, far before the internet, I would sit there at the grocery store waiting for the stressed-out mom in front of me in the checkout line while she wrote a check, and I would think, "Can't we just wave a card over some kind of scanner that instantly debits our checking accounts? We have to actually fish out a pen and write down on a stupid peice of paper what we want to spend? Then hand it over to some clerk? Then have them mail it to some bank? Then have the bank mail it to some other bank? Then mail it back to us? Then we have to save that damn thing for seven years for tax records? Then we have to balance our checkbooks once a month to figure out which checks have hit the bank and which ones haven't yet?"

It all sounded very 1950's to me. Even in the 1980's.

Like most people nowadays, I pay most of my bills electronically and make most of my purchases with debit or credit cards. However there were always those small handful of expenses where I was forced to actually pull out this antiquated device called a "pen" and write a stupid check. So like an idiot, every year or so I would order new checks. Handwritten checks, laser checks, whatever.

About a year ago, I ran out of checks. Before going to re-order them, I stopped myself and forced myself to think. Of all the monthly bills and expenses I had in a given month, only two required me to write a check and mail it. Could I find some other way of paying those without having my own checks? Of course I could! I resolved then and there to never write a check ever again for the rest of my life.

That was a year ago, and I'm proud to say that since then I have never had to write a check to anyone. I have no checks anywhere in my house or office, and never will again.

I know some of you are already thinking "Oh yeah, I use my bank's bill-pay service, and they cut checks and mail them for me." Yeah, that's the second best option in my opinion. The problem with doing it that way is that you then have an unbalanced checkbook.

You can't check your bank balance and instantly know how much money you have, because some of those mailed checks haven't cleared your bank yet. It doesn't matter if you mail them or your bank is mailing them, they're still checks, and they're still being mailed. On the other hand, I can check my bank balance whenever I want and instantly know how much money I have.

That's why instead of using my bank's bill-pay service, if I truly have to pay some neanderthal company or person who won't take credit/debit card payments, I either give them cash (if it's an informal relationship) or pay them with a money order. That way, the money is instantly removed from my checking account, and once again I know exactly how much money I have at all times. No balancing required. (I still review my checking accounts once a month for errors, but that takes way less time than balancing them.)

"Money orders?" you say, "Those are a hassle!"

That's what I thought before actually using them. As long as you don't need to use them often, they're actually not a hassle at all. They cost 30 cents at most big box grocery stores. So once a month, when I'm at the grocery store (because I have to be there anyway to get my food), I walk over to their customer service desk and get my two money orders.

It takes less than 3 minutes (since I do my shopping when no one else is there) and costs a grand total of 60 cents. I then slap the money orders into a pre-printed, pre-stamped envelope and mail it on the way out of the grocery store (there's USPS mailbox in the same parking lot). Boom. Done. No check writing. Instant debit from my account. No balancing. No purchasing checks. I'm in love.

Now if you want to use your bank's bill-pay services to have them cut your checks, that's okay too, because at least you're removing yourself from the flow of work. I'm just saying I like my way better. Someday soon, everyone will have their own personal PayPal account (or similar) and we won't even need paper to move money any more (even cash will become a thing of the past, thank God), but until then, stop writing checks. It's a waste of your time.

This article was originally published on November 25, 2012