The Case of the Missing Transaction Registers

Transaction register bookletsA while back, while running my socially-distanced, masked, sanitized errands, I stopped by a nearby bank branch with a simple mission: to obtain a transaction register.

For those who might not be familiar with what that is, a transaction register is that little booklet you slide into your chequebook holder, to keep track of your deposits and your withdrawals.

I realize that I am probably dating myself with that statement since cheques, chequebooks and chequebook holders might not be household names in many households anymore.

The fact is that cheques are losing popularity (in Canada, anyway), in favour of credit cards, debit cards, eTransfers and automatic withdrawals. I think it would be safe to say that during the pandemic when physical forms of payment were discouraged, the adjustment to contactless forms of payment may have accelerated the inevitable.

Just the same, there are occasions when a cheque is still the more convenient or practical payment option. This 2018 article from the Ottawa Citizen explains more on the topic:

With the increasing rarity in cheques, it would naturally follow that chequebooks and transaction registers might also be going rare. You might be asking, “Why don’t you just use some form of electronic recording?”

I could indeed and probably will at some point in time. However, the recording of my chequing account expenditures in a paper booklet (I’m grateful that they are not stone tablets) takes root in fond memories of my Grade 10 Accounting class.

I remember so vividly the exercises in which we learned how to log debits and credits manually on sheets of accounting paper. I also remember my pure joy when balance sheets were perfectly reconciled and the debits and credits matched perfectly to the penny.

I also recall those days when the numbers didn’t match and how tenacious some of my friends and I were in scavenging through the amounts to locate the source of the problem… and then the sheer joy when the numbers finally balanced.

If you couldn’t guess, I loved Accounting class.

That being the case, when I got my first chequing account, cheque book and transaction register to log my own transactions, I swear I heard the angels singing. I felt one step closer to adulthood and the privilege of having cheques to pay bills.

The transaction register looked exactly like the paper we used in accounting class for the fictional companies for whom we practiced our bookkeeping skills. I could actually apply what I learned there to my own accounts.

Of course, I didn’t have any major bills to pay until I got to university, but by then, personal bookkeeping and keeping meticulous records had become second nature.

Four decades later, I still use the transaction register to keep track of my debits and credits.

It may take time to transition away from this old-school habit, but I swear, it still works for me.

But when the transaction register gets full and one need another booklet, what does one do? The banks seem to be rather frugal in their distribution of them… when they have them in stock.

I can’t tell you what a nail biter moment it is when you know you are approaching month end, knowing that there are a number of upcoming transactions to log, and only four or five lines of free space, because the banks have been out of transaction registers for so long. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any at stationery or dollar stores either.

Just out of curiosity, I took to ebay to see if I could find some. The good news is that I did. The bad news is that the minimum purchase was 25 booklets.

The consolation was that if I did bite the bullet and purchase this quantity, I probably wouldn’t have to stress about the banks running out for at least 12 years since I tend to go through about 2 per year. That should give me just enough time to transition to a new logging system for debits and credits.

I went ahead and purchased them, with visions of having to create a dedicated storage space for them, much like is sometimes needed after a bountiful trip to Costco. To my great delight, they really don’t take up much room in my desk drawer. Problem solved… for about 12 years!

As much as I accept that we need to change with the times, I sometimes think that change is overrated, especially when something works well, like transaction registers, no matter how “old school” the system might be!

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