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Our 28th year of publishing

Published August 31, 2021

Check writing, balancing almost a lost art today

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I still like to do certain things a certain way, because that’s the way I have always done them. One of them is writing checks and balancing my checkbooks.

I learned check writing in math class as a high school freshman. My teacher one day put aside the curriculum and showed us how to write a check.

She didn’t teach us how to balance a checkbook, though. She probably thought that was way above our pay-grade at the time. She was just glad to be able to get through the check-writing part.

She was a temperamental woman who probably didn’t like teaching our class. I have forgotten her name, but I do remember that she drove a Mercedes, which was impressive to me at the time.

I also remember that each time one of us gave her the wrong answer, she could be heard grinding her teeth, like she couldn’t believe that we still had not gotten the concept. But when she was teaching us check writing, she was on the money. We paid attention.

To most of us, check writing was something other people, much older than us, did. She opened up a whole new world to me. Shortly after the class, I convinced my mother to open a checking account at a nearby bank.

It made a world of difference when it came to paying our bills. We didn’t have to go to all those places to pay them - just stuck checks in envelopes, and and off they went.

Then I taught myself how to balance the account each month. That was a little tricky. Back in those days, we didn’t have a computer to help us.

I wrote down all the checks that were still pending and added them into the bank’s total to get the final balance.

It took a while to do this with pen and paper, but when those numbers lined up on both sides, that gave me a sense of achievement. Not too many freshmen even back then could say they could balance a checking account.

I wasn’t able to show off this new talent to my math teacher. She passed a few of us, including me, and I never saw her again.

She wasn’t very popular among students, at least not in my class. But she did me a big favor back then, and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful that she passed me. I was having some doubts.

These days, almost everyone pays with plastic or just holds their phone up to some sensor. They know how much money they have by connecting to the bank and looking at their balance. I don’t go by the bank’s balance. It lags behind what mine is in the checkbook register - another thing not used all that much today.

I still like writing checks to pay bills. I’m probably one of the few people who don't use direct pay all the time.

And, I use one more thing that is becoming a rarity - cash.

“Will that be credit or debit?” asked the clerk at the register.

“It will be cash,” I responded.

She looked puzzled, probably thinking, “who pays with cash?”

I took a second to count out the money. The shopper behind me was probably wondering why I didn’t just take out the plastic and insert it into the scanner. Instead, he watched me impatiently as I counted out the cash.

“Would you happen to have 24 cents?” asked the clerk.

“No, I don’t. I’m sorry. Cash is such a bother,” I joked.

The guy behind me shook his head. But he should be glad I just paid in cash. I could have pulled out my checkbook, which, by the way, is all balanced. I'm a slow writer.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)