Give me a home where no buffalo roam.

Now that we’re packing up all our worldly possessions, we’re running across things we no longer need or use. Case in point: I found a check register from 2010.

If you’re a certain age, you might not even know what a check register is. For the uninitiated (I’m looking at you, Millennials!), it is/was a ledger in which you recorded financial transactions from your checking account, keeping track of your current balance so you’d know how much money was in your account at any given time.

In theory, at least.

The reality is, balancing your checkbook every month was an exercise in futility. At least for me. Regardless of how careful my recordkeeping skills were, the amounts almost never matched. Sometimes, the difference was significant. I remember being off by triple digits more than once.

This explains why the transactions in this register are dated 11/12/10 to 7/11/11 before abruptly ending with five pages to go. I didn’t suddenly switch banks; instead, mid-July 2011 is the moment when I finally said To hell with this! and quit recording deposits and withdrawals.

I remember telling my mom I was done using my checkbook at the time. This really unnerved her. “How will you know how much money is in your account?” she asked.

“Apparently, I don’t even know how much money is in my account now,” I told her. “I’ll go with whatever the bank tells me is there.”

The funny thing is, I got into less trouble relying on this devil-may-care methodology. I was no stranger to overdrawn accounts back then, but that only seemed to happen when I was giving my checkbook careful scrutiny.

In any case, flipping through the pages of this old check register is like unearthing a time capsule. Back then, I was an unemployed single dad. There wasn’t even a Tar to my Mar yet. I counted 20 separate purchases from iTunes during that eight-month stretch. Just a few dollars at a time, but boy, did they add up. I shudder to think how much money I have given Apple over the years!

(Maybe that’s why I’m Team Android when it comes to phones. Enough is enough.)

There were also the usual expenditures from Trader Joe’s, Powell’s Books, and various and sundry liquor stores. No doubt to drown my sorrows over being jobless and loveless.

I was surprised to see how often I bought things at Best Buy, Kohl’s, and Sears (RIP). But I was frugal at times, too. I shopped at Grocery Outlet and Value Village a lot. Coffee, pizza, and bagels were occasional treats. Boppin’ Bo’s (RIP), too. A ’50s-themed burger joint I used to take the kids to. Plus $5 matinees at Regal Cinemas.

I wonder what cost $7.24 at Penzey’s Spices on May the 4th be With You, 2011. And I have no recollection at all of Gymocha, but I dropped $3.96 there on June 29. Maybe a coffee-slash-fitness center?

My balance ranged from a high of $2,541.16 (not typical) to a low of $3.84 (yikes). That was a very difficult period in my life. Needless to say, I don’t miss it at all.

Interesting trip down Memory Lane regardless.


On a more upbeat note, we won’t be homeless in Wisconsin! Today, we were approved for an apartment in Fort Atkinson. It’s not where we want to live long-term, but racing the clock, we didn’t have a lot of options and it’s temporary anyway.

Having said that, it looks like a pretty interesting community. Fort Atkinson is 45 minutes east of Madison, an hour west of Milwaukee, and 30 minutes north of Janesville, where I’ll be working. It’s located on the Rock River, a few miles from Lake Koshkonong, which looks ideal for kayaking. So, that’s a pretty good compromise considering.

It’s also the birthplace of fellow blogger Jess Witkins, whom we happened to meet up with on Friday. She and her husband Joe were in town visiting from La Crosse. We toasted to our upcoming move, having no idea how truly small the world is at the time.

Other fun attractions around town: several museums, a replica of an 1832 stockade, a cluster of indigenous effigy mounds, a nearby state park, and some great historical buildings on Main Street and Merchants Avenue. Here are a few photos I found online.

I’ve never been there but am already excited to get out and do some exploring!

43 thoughts on “Give me a home where no buffalo roam.

  1. I’ve had that experience of going down Memory Lane with the check register. Fort Atkinson it is. Getting that locked in means not having to deal with the new home uncertainty short-term, and it also sounds like it will be a well-positioned location.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I gave up balancing my checkbook every month but do still use a check register and it has come in handy at times. That’s exciting news about the apartment and that you’re literally and figuratively on the move. New here and didn’t know your back story so that part was interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you have a temporary place to settle. It sounds well-centered and hopefully will be a good point to explore from and find your forever(?) Wisconsin home. I still have a few checks hanging around but can’t remember the last time I used a register. Everything I do is online so the bank does all the hard work for me and I just check in and make sure what I need is there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I still use a check register! Probably because the PTA and Club soccer don’t take credit cards. I balance it every month using Excel and it always balances (no matter how long it takes me to figure out I transposed 2 numbers). In the days when I lived paycheck to paycheck, I needed to know exactly how much money I had, lest I lose even more money for dropping under a minimum account balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In looking through my old check register, I noticed a few times where the balance technically dipped below zero, but I knew a deposit would hit before the transaction cleared. Those times, I didn’t even bother recording the balance. What a way to live, huh? Ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kudos for the bravery of moving to a place you’ve never seen. Not sure I could do that at this point in my life, even if it is temporary. Of course I still use a check register, so that probably says a lot.
    🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We did exactly that when moving to Rapid City. Picked out an apartment sight unseen. Driving out there to check it out was one of the very first things we did the evening we arrived. Fortunately, it turned out to be a pretty nice place, so I’m counting on that positive experience repeating itself!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures!! Honestly, since the invention of the atm, I sort of took a devil may care attitude towards recording checks. I just went weekly and printed a statement. Not in college when I rarely had more than 100$, but post college

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you still use checks? It’s been years since I’ve written one, though Tara does on occasion for those utilities that don’t accept online payments. Can’t believe they still exist. Only in South Dakota!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My husband wrote a check yesterday for his tennis court for the season. They don’t do online. Otherwise, only use checks when lending my father in law money…😆

        Like

  7. Love this, Mark! And I think that no matter how low the checkbook balance is, spending money at Powell’s books is always worth it.

    Congratulations on the apartment. How lovely! Off to the next adventure and taking us along for the ride. Wuhoo!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I write many, many fewer checks than I used to but I still balance the checkbook every month. In addition to written checks (maybe 2-3 a month), we auto-pay several of our utilities out of our joint account, plus make a few payments online. I am way to anal to hope it just balances itself. You new digs look fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Looks like a pretty town. I hope you’ll ultimately have a short commute. (Tara too.) Lake Koshkonong is a super cool name.
    Eesh. Looking back on a check registry sounds like a frightening task. I’m glad it made you all the happier for where you are now.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Life is moving fast for you, no pun intended. I’d love to stumble upon our old checkbook register. I can only imagine where we shopped back then, living in a smaller city, being frugal– like all kids with enormous student loans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My plan was to shred it, but I keep putting off the task. It’s the only register I still have, and such an interesting thing to look back on, I don’t think I can bring myself to do it. Even though it’s pointless to keep around.

      Guess I’m just sentimental AF.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. OMG…….I’m logged in! It’s a miracle!!!

    Despite my tech difficulties, I’m really good at math, so have never NOT balanced my two checkbooks each month. However, I must be in the minority because one of those banks stopped printing the balancing lines on the back of the monthly statement. Fortunately, I don’t need it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I generally had good luck balancing the checkbook, but eventually also said the heck with it, the bank statement’s good enough. Doesn’t matter much anymore, I probably only do 4-5 checks a year. These days a trip down memory lane is the Visa statement.

    Good that you’ve found a place – one less thing to stress about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s absolutely awesome where we can find some of the best memories. You’d think they’d be in photo album, but normally those of us who don’t live on insta/twitter and the such, photograph the highlights only, and the more “mundane” bits of life go forgotten. And yet a record of a song you used to love, a book you bought based on a recommendation from someone you may have lost touch with, a treat you bought at Trader Joe’s (if you haven’t tried the “Dark Chocolate Honey Mints: Just 3 ingredients”, your life is not complete 🙂 ), all those small moments can come to life from those statements.

      Who would have guessed where the sweetest memories live?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is a great comment, and you’re absolutely right. Some of the best memories hit you unexpectedly: maybe a whiff of your grandmother’s perfume or a snippet of a song you heard on a family vacation when you were eight years old. As much as I like social media, it doesn’t capture any of that!

        And no, I have not tried those mints. Good thing I’ll finally have easy access to a TJ’s again!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You just reminded me of my grandmother’s perfume bottle that I kept for years, not because I used it in the traditional sense, but because one whiff would transport me back to playing in her house as a young child 🥹 Thank you for the meta-memory!

        And, yes, they mints are finger-licking-good! But they come individually wrapped, so there’s not much occasion for finger licking with them 🙃

        Like

  13. I read this several days ago but for some reason didn’t leave the comment that was in my head, which was this: I balance my checkbook every month! I also record every transaction in Microsoft Money (yes, we still have that, even though they don’t make it anymore – I think we’re on the “sunset” version) and every month I also check my credit card bill against my Microsoft Money register. The husband thinks I’m crazy. I’ve occasionally found errors (e.g. a business double-charged me or something) but not that often. My brother, who has an MBA and does the finances for his company, also does this. I think we’re some of the last people on earth who balance our checkbooks.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s weird to think that back in the day if you didn’t record ALL your transactions, you didn’t know how much money you had in the bank without 1) going into the bank or 2) waiting for your monthly statement.
    I also have my old check registers, and weirdly enough, I still have my Fathers’, and he departed in 1993. (I think I just like to see his handwriting now and then)

    Your new town area looks amazing! Congrats on not being homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

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