Chext: Joint checkbook balancing, mobile style

Chext’s concept of keeping a joint checkbook balanced came and it went. Let’s face it- there’s usually one person that really doesn’t like taking care of their paperwork. It doesn’t matter how easy or hard you make it for them, they aren’t going to want to do it. Chext was a noble concept which just didn’t quite catch on.

Keeping one’s checkbook balanced is challenging. It requires constantly updating your expenses. To make matters worse, when you visit the ATM you rarely have your checkbook ledger with you. Even if you did you probably wouldn’t update it right then and there anyway. Most people are happy to get away from ATM machines without their pin numbers being stolen, let alone a real live check book.

Now, let’s say, along comes a woman. And then comes rings, vows, and ultimately, a shared checking account. (Please tell me you did those in that order!) Everybody has different spending habits. Let’s also imagine that one of you has the habit of seeing money in the account buying- let’s just call it what it is- junk they find on sale. If you aren’t careful, before you know it you’re writing bad checks, simultaneously accumulating overdraft charges and high blood pressure.

Chext Home

Coming to the rescue to this otherwise stressful situation is Chext.net. Chext provides a tool to update the balance of your checkbook online, or by sending text messages. No more having to take your worn down check book with its oft illegible ledger everywhere. If you pull $20 from the checking account at the ATM, send a text indicating that, and you’re done. Or if one of you buys $453 dollars worth of patagonias and a subscription to Glam magazine, they can text that as well.

The way it works is first you set up your account, which includes registering your phone number to the account. Then you text all your transactions to Chext’s number set up to process all updates. (We aren’t sure what happens if you call the number, though we strongly suspect it’s a direct line to Dr Laura, ready talk you through any conflict management issues.)

Hearkening to the simplicity of what it takes to balance a checkbook, there’s a relatively short list of commands to update the balance. If you send a text with a number followed by a short description, it subtracts that amount from the balance and adds the label. If you type a plus(+) before the number it credits that amount to your account. ‘Bal’ returns the current balance. (If it comes back unexpectedly low you may still experience hypertension, but at least you avoid the overdraft fees.) The only other commonly used command is ‘undo,’ which unfortunately doesn’t have the effect of undoing the spending habits of your significant other. It simply cancels your last transaction in the event you mistyped an update. All transactions can be seen, edited and reconciled through the online interface. It’s just like a checkbook ledger, only online and updateable from your phone.

How Chext Works

Chext is free to try out and offers two plans.  The first is the solo plan and the second is the for couples. Incidentally, there are two other commands, both of which are used with the joint accounts. First is the ‘invite’ command followed by the phone number of the person you share the account with. The second is, (let’s hope it doesn’t come to this), the ‘revoke’ command also followed by the phone number of the recently revoked person in your life.

Keeping a checkbook balanced takes enduring discipline. With shared accounts the task becomes all the more unmanageable. Chext provides an easy way to keep your account up to date so you’ll always be aware of how much money you have. Now, if they could only figure out a way to prevent some of the more egregious expenditures, then we’d all be saved.