How to Keep Your Checking Account from Shrinking

The Budget Fashionista’s Annual “Being Broke Ain’t Cute” Series features tips and advice to help you improve your personal financial health. For more personal finance information, please visit our Financial Health Series.

The problem: Your checking account seems to shrink before your eyes every month no matter what you do.

The solution: You probably already know the answer—track your spending!  You might be amazed at how quickly some of the smallest expenses start to add up and put a real dent in your spending money—and yes, you must count that fab lipcolor you got at Sephora, even if it was a two-for-one deal.

It’s not just your spending, however; one of the biggest culprits that you may not pay much attention to are fees imposed by your bank.  Banks get pretty fee-happy sometimes, and consequently you might find yourself paying a couple dollars here for using a foreign ATM and another dollar here for calling customer service in addition to other fees.  You do have some control over these fees . . . request a Schedule of Fees from your bank and figure out exactly what they’re charging you for. After you know what the fees are for, stop doing whatever it is that incurs the fees.

Also, remember that if you have the advantage of having a good track record with your bank – no bounced checks and all that jazz – then you shouldn’t hesitate to call the bank and ask to have some fees reversed. If the customer service representative says no, ask to speak to a manager—this is no time to get shy. Mention that you’re thinking of taking your banking business elsewhere, and watch the fees fly off your account.  If your bank isn’t budging on the fees, and if they seem particularly vicious with fees, then it’s time to switch banks. Check out credit unions in your local area to see if you’re eligible for membership because credit unions notoriously have lower fees than many banks, and look into banks online—you might even find a bank that is free of fees altogether.

Bottom line: With a little diligence, you’ll find that there are plenty of financial institutions willing to offer you an account without bleeding you dry. Seriously, don’t pay excessive fees just for the privilege of spending your own money!