This post was partly prompted by some articles about household money I’ve been reading in various places around the web recently. The topics are especially prevalent when it comes to double income couples who end up single income couples when one parent stays home with the kids. What happens to the money? Is it accessible by both parents equally? Does someone get an allowance? How do people stay on top of the daily flow of cash, particularly when the incidentals become more frequent (with older kids, for example, who join a variety of sports or other activities)?
Every family has their own way of dealing with the household money. We have a way that works for us, but I’ll tell you something, being responsible for the cash flow is neither fun, nor easy.
And the worst part is the checks. Not just the endless writing of them, but keeping track of them.
I much prefer to pay with my credit card.
Unfortunately, not every organization allows for online payments, which in my view is the easiest, most efficient way to pay for stuff. There are so many different online ways to pay for things today: credit, email transfer, bank transfer, wireless transfer, paypal…
But not everyone is comfortable with online payment options. And some organization simply insist on checks.
Old-fashioned, hand-written checks.
I am not a fan of writing checks. I was reminded of this again today, because I just finished writing four checks for the kids’ tennis lessons this spring.
Parents of kids in organized sports, you know what I’m talking about, right?
Some sports are expensive (rep anything) and requires several post-dated checks (if the head coach/manager is smart about it) for sums that are large-ish (and possibly equivalent to a mortgage payment even). Some checks could run into the thousands (hockey).
If you have multiple kids in multiple sports, that’s a lot of simultaneous checks.
The trouble with the checks is that you have no way of knowing when they will clear the account. So you write the check and you hope it will clear within the week of the date you sign for it. But what if you have to submit post-dated checks? That’s a lot of cash to keep track of (and if you forget, and you have insufficient funds in the checking account to pay for the second installment of hockey, you’re going to be scrambling).
I’m trying to keep it together here by reminding myself in my google calendar what, and how much, is going out, and when. I set the reminder a week ahead of the due date so I can move around the money to ensure it’s in the appropriate account when it gets cashed.
I do my part, is what I’m saying. I am good with details but only because I’m good with keeping track of details on my calendar. (Thank goodness for syncing internet communication, I love technology!)
But this handling money thing is an art in itself, and some people are not made to handle such details.
So I do my thing and I write my checks and I make my notes and I know what goes out when and then….some factor I can’t control happens. The check doesn’t seem to clear off the account, and you wonder what is going on. At the same time you worry that the other adult will see extra money sitting in the account, not realizing that it’s there because of a still un-cleared check, not because of a Bass Pro sale on hunting gear (or whatever). Or I might forget and happily trudge off to buy the kids new shoes until I realize, oops, that cash was meant for the baseball tournament fee.
There was one year where the biggest of three hockey checks still hadn’t cleared after a week. I thought, what is up? Is the manager busy, out of town? If a check doesn’t get cashed in a reasonable time, it will affect cash flow or the weekly/monthly budget. I don’t want to just drop some big amount of cash into the daily account ‘just in case’, I’d rather leave the savings in the other account.
So I dropped him an email and offered assistance while diplomatically asking what the delay is about. Turns out he was waiting for one family to still submit their check, and he didn’t want to do several visits to the bank when he could do all checks at the same time.
(Hence, the request for post-dated checks became standard with subsequent years.)
It’s a full-time job, keeping the financial situation together. A job that requires constant updating, too. Since our kids are in multiple sports and we’re in the transition season where one sport is ending and the other already started, sometimes it can get a little confusing.
That was me, today, trying to ensure all our bases are covered. Because once again, I wrote several checks without knowing when the person in charge will have an opportunity to deposit them into the organization’s account. Until that happens, our bank account doesn’t look ‘accurate’ to me.