Most of the year, I look at the physical checkbook on my desk as a novelty.
It’s kind of like the box of videotapes I can see on a shelf nearby. I’m almost sentimental about it. There are some great memories there. But really, who lives life like that anymore?
I remember first opening up an account where I could hand someone a signed piece of paper and give them permission to take that much money out of my account. It made me feel like such a grownup.
I remember burning through that first box of checks. I’d write checks for my electricity, my water, my rent, even at the grocery store.
Then the world evolved, and I didn’t quite need so many checks. You use a debit card at the grocery store or to fill up your tank. You can have your bills automatically come out of your checking account, so I know the mortgage, water and electricity bills will get paid. At this point, all of our regular bills pretty much pay themselves, with me double-checking them on a spreadsheet to be sure everything’s on the up-and-up.
Checks became so irrelevant in my day-to-day life, I lost track of the last time I ordered them. Whenever I finally used up one of those packs of 25, there were always more somewhere else. My wife usually keeps some in her purse. I usually have some on my dresser in the bedroom, for reasons I don’t understand and couldn’t begin to explain.
There is a time those checks come in handy, though, and that’s school time. As we move through the first month of the school year, a week doesn’t go by where there isn’t some note reminding us to send a check to school for something. This year, it’s been for sports buttons, T-shirts and warmup jackets, all wanting a check written out to so-and-so.
We dutifully let them vacuum the money out of our accounts, the same way we dutifully fork over our cash on hand for admission and snacks every time we go to a youth sporting event, which can be five days a week this time of year.
Eventually, you realize paper checks are not a naturally occurring resource. They do not grow on the money tree I often remind our daughters we don’t have in the back yard. Sooner or later, you will write your last check out of the 200 you ordered four years ago.
I know all this because we did, and we did it completely unprepared. I placed the order Saturday, after we went to write a check and didn’t have one. We’re told our order should be here in 17 days.
In the meantime, if anyone needs money from our family, I’ll have to see if they’ll wait by using an old excuse from when everyone paid their bills by check: The checks are in the mail.