How often do you check your bank balance?

I’ve probably checked my main current account balance everyday – more or less – for the last 15 years. I check my portfolio about once a month but the indices about daily.

Is that too much / too often / too time consuming? Am I obsessed, is this OCD? And what would I do if I was truly FI?

My Dad used to check the fridge to see if there was enough milk for the morning – and if there wasn’t he’d set off to buy more at whatever hour of the night.

People check their phones scores of times a day – particularly if they are hooked on social media.

I check for my emails more often than they are sent – work, family office and personal – it’s like an addiction!

So, in the modern world, we are kept on a constant state of digital addiction. It’s not an original thought and I probably am remembering what I heard on the excellent programme on Radio 4, The Digital Human with great podcasts like Crutch and Insatiable, all about how we humans operate in a digital world. Have a listen if you have the time.

Thinking forward to a time where my investment income exceeds my spending; when my investing is automated and there’s no pressing need to check any of these things – how often would I check my bank balance?

I can think of many reasons to check it just today like:

  1. I got paid today, did I?
  2. I need to pay the nanny, do I have enough?
  3. Did my dividends from VCTs come through?
  4. Do I have money to invest in my ISA / LISA this month?
  5. Were there any unknown transactions on my account (fraud alert?)

But, the fact is that I don’t really need to check it – I could reduce it from a daily to a weekly event and not suffer much harm. Even if I was overdrawn by £1000, the cost is only about £4 at most.

I try to run a tight ship between keeping my money coming in (job income, child benefit, VCT dividends, P2P returns, cashback, share/ETF dividends…) and going out (mortgage, council tax, gas/elec, credit cards, general spending, investments, P2P, nanny maternity pay…), the secret is not just to spend less than you earn but also to balance these forces and utilise your money efficiently – that’s what I think anyway.

But, most of these payments are automatic and I can generally predict my full spending on the month in advance.  I could also simplify my investments like dropping P2P (it’s a love/hate thing) and never really need to look at my bank balance but once a month – buy/sell ETFs to make up for the shortfall/surplus and get back to living a simple life.

How much of our money habits are just bad habits in that we are wasting our time doing them? I already seldom check my share/etf portfolio value (roughly 2/3 times a month) and only do it then to make changes to regular investments (to keep costs down) and month-end values. But I still take an active interest in what the FTSE100 is up to, checking everyday.

I try to only update monthly my expenses spreadsheet that has details of all my income, outgoings, assets and everything like that (graphs, graphs, lots of graphs). But I end up fiddling with it when I should really be working.

Am I just a time-waster and should I quit it and put that energy to better use? Some of the reasons I “need” to do something look a bit stupid written down, so maybe a weekly look (at leisure and in depth rather than a cursory glance) is a better approach. And the fear of going into my overdraft? Rather obvious now, but maybe there is function with internet banking that allows you to see if your balance is below £100 or something like that? Then I can just set and forget.

Financial Independence should be where you are independent of money – not just from work but from worry too. It’s different from being frugal – frugal is living within your means and being happy about. This is more like being a miser and, to be rich and still worry means you are a slave to money and I don’t want that for us.

 

 

10 comments

  1. Hi GFF

    Do you think you are wasting time, with all your checking? If not and what you’re doing makes you comfortable and in control, then I don’t see anything wrong with continuing.

    I check my main bank current account on pay day to make sure it’s in there to cover my direct debits and standing orders. I’ll check it again in two weeks’ time to make sure I’ve got enough to live on til next pay day and if it looks like more than enough, I squirrel a bit more into my ISA.

    I check that dividends has been paid so I can make a note of them ready for my monthly blog update (easier to keep track as they get paid).

    I check the balances of my investments once a month when I do my update.

    I actually think that when I become FI, I will likely spend more time checking on my investments as I would need to find a way to live off them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • you sound very reasonable and orgaised.
      I on the other hand feel a bit like a compulsive checker – like the people who check their phones for any updates from their ubiquitous social media presence.

      Looking at my current account, there is no less than £10k and up to £25k a month moving in/out of my current account month on month. It a by-product of my complicated system. Fewer transactions would be better – but I they are the symptonm and not the cause of everything!

      On on the topic of “comfort and control”, I was once told that in the art of process surveillance, if you are going to check something but do nothing, then you are wasting your time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I check the indices and my portfolio most days, partly because it’s easy to do. I think you should check less often and then you are more likely to see a positive change!
    I check my bank account and credit card account about once a week, sometimes to check something specific and sometimes for a general check.
    Maybe in draw down you will find yourself checking your portfolio more often and your bank account less often, and maybe your bank activity will be less complex by then.

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  3. Once a month, when I do my book keeping.

    I found that once my investment income reliably covered my lifestyle costs I mostly lost interest. There was “enough”, it was mostly automated, and I was only doing that monthly check to whether I had been robbed at some point in the preceding 30 days.

    Back when I did used to feel compelled to check more often, for fear of bouncing a cheque (remember those?) or direct debit, it turned out to be because my affairs were overly complicated rather than I didn’t have enough money. Too many accounts. Too many transfers, standing orders, etc. Too busy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I check my main account a few times a week, more out of habit than anything else. I do most of my spending on a credit card, so it’s not like the value in the current account changes at all day to day, with the exception of paying bills and rent!

    I check the rest of my accounts once a month, when I do all my book keeping. Unforunately, I’ve run into the same problem that Indeedably described above; in an effort to maximise interest rates and get a few welcome offers, I have too many accounts! So checking everything can take some time. I may start to close some of these accounts when the introductory rates end, and will sacrifice a few £ in interest in order to save a couple of hours each month!

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  5. Hi GFF, with Halifax, I set it to notify me if my balance goes below £50. I get a text if my balance is getting low! If you play around with your online banking services, you may find something like that? I find it helpful.

    I wonder if the compulsive checking is an issue for many people interested in finance and investing. Of course, the upshot is that you know exactly where you are with your bank balance. I always start getting nervous when I get asked a security question about how much is in my account, because I often don’t really know!

    However, it does sound like you’ve got a lot of traffic going on through your account! If you’re looking in order to action something like putting into the LISA, then obviously that’s what you have to do. You can’t *not* check your balance.

    As for me, I tend to check my bank balance every few weeks if it’s not for a particular thing. I might check toward the end of the month if I’m worried I may have overspent slightly, or to see if I might’ve got paid early! I’m rejiggling my finances atm so I’m checking it more often, if only incidentally as money is ‘passing though’ my current account.

    We have a joint account just for bills and I must admit I don’t follow that very much, only to check it’s not run down to zero. For example, if we haven’t been paid child benefit for the last months, I wouldn’t have the foggiest! I probably shouldn’t trust that the system should just work, but I prefer to focus on other things!

    Liked by 1 person

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