How Much Of A Buffer You Should Have In Your Checking Account

I have no idea what a good buffer is to keep in my checking account.

And I really wanted to know what that number should be.

I was going to do some research and come up with something to write about on a checking account buffer.

Then, I realized there is no one right answer, which is why I didn’t already know it!

So, I went ahead and asked some of my favorite people to share what they think should be kept in a checking account.

In an email, I asked 13 finance bloggers the following simple question:

  • “How much of a buffer should you have in your checking account?”

Here’s what they said (in the order I received each response)…


1. Whitney,

“I believe everyone should have a buffer of $500 in their checking account. This buffer is like a mini-emergency fund. It prevents you from overdrafting your account and sleep better at night knowing you’re covered if your budgeted categories go over your estimated amounts. This means at any given time you will have $500 in your checking.”


2. Sophia Bera, Gen Y Network

“I usually recommend about one month of net pay as a buffer in your checking account. I’d rather see the excess moved to a savings account earning 1% at a bank.”


3. Stefanie O’Connell,

“I like to keep one month’s worth of living expenses in my personal checking account and a separate one month business expense buffer in my business checking account. I check in on both accounts multiple times per week to see if I need to add or withdraw from either based on new payments, costs or unexpected circumstances.”


4.  Jessi Fearon,

“Depending on the season of life you’re in, the amount of buffer will depend, but for me, a good rule of thumb is to keep 5-10% of my monthly take home pay as a buffer. Again, it’ll depend on your budget and the season of life you’re in as to the exact dollar amount you keep, but the important thing is to keep a buffer because budget mistakes can and do happen.”


5. Grayson Bell,

“Each person is going to have a different buffer in their checking account. Buffers should be defined by one’s financial goals, monthly expenses, and level of acceptable risk they care to take. While my buffer is two months of recurring expenses, someone else might to leave all their available cash in their checking account for liquidity.”


6. BreAnna Rood,

“My husband and I have nearly all of our bills set up on auto pay, so we always make sure to have enough in our checking account to cover all of those bills plus an extra $200 just to be safe. This may not seem like much of a cushion, but at our bank we’ve opted in to their Free Savings Transfer overdraft protection option. We’ve never actually had to use it, but if we were to overdraw on our checking account, that money would simply pull from our savings account, interest and fee free!”


7. J. Money,

“I always love having a cool $1,000 in my checking as a buffer. That usually covers most of the mistakes I’d make in any given month, and those times where I REALLY goof up and go through an extra $1,000, well, I deserve to get pinged by some fees! ;)”


8. Jessica Moorhouse,

“I may be a bit strange for saying this, but for my personal checking account I don’t have a buffer. My strategy with my checking account is that every two weeks I give myself a certain amount of money for personal spending, and when I run out, I run out, and it’s on me to check how much money I have in there daily so I don’t go into overdraft. It’s a mental game I’ve played for years to help me stay on budget and not overspend, and it works for me. However, for my joint checking account that I share with my husband, we usually have a buffer of $500 since we have a few automatic bills that come out of there.”


9. Michelle Schroeder-Gardner,

“I think having around one to two months of expenses in your checking account is usually a good amount. You don’t want to have too much in your checking account because then you may feel free to spend too much of it. You also don’t want to have too little because you don’t want to over-withdraw and pay penalties or fees either. With all of this being said, you should still have an emergency fund on top of this as well.”


10. Mary Beth Storjohann,

“Ideally, you want your bank account buffer to be an amount that you’re comfortable with. If you know you track spending to the penny, then a couple hundred extra dollars could do. However, if you need a little more cushion, aim for one week of your take home pay with a maximum of two weeks as a buffer.”


11. Holly Johnson,

“Since we use a zero-sum budget, we start each month with exactly how much cash we need for bills and fluctuating expenses. Ideally, we’ll spend our checking account down to zero by the end of the month. The reason we don’t leave “extra” cash in our checking account is because we believe in accounting for each dollar we spend. Instead, we leave extra cash in our savings account to cover emergencies or unplanned expenses. Typically we’ll have a few thousand dollars in cash in savings at any given time.”


12. Catherine Alford,

“I keep a buffer of approximately $100 in my checking account every month. I prefer to keep the majority of my savings in my high yield savings account, and keeping a smaller buffer helps prevent unnecessary spending!”


13.  Erin Lowry,

“I have two main checking accounts. One for bills and one for day-to-day spending. I come pretty close to zeroing out on day-to-day spend each month (zero-sum budgeting mentality), but I like to keep one to two months worth of bill payments in the checking account dedicating to paying rent, utilities, Internet, health insurance and my cell phone bill. The buffer also helps ease my mind during months when my variable income from freelancing takes a dip or it’s taking a long time for outstanding payments to arrive.”


A Final Note!

So, after reading all of these suggestions, it seems like I will make my decision based on my own circumstances. (No surprise here!)

Right now, I’m most like Holly (number 11 above) – I spend down to almost zero every month and keep my cash savings account linked for back-up.

But sometimes things come up that aren’t emergencies, they just weren’t planned for and I want more of a buffer.

So, I’m going to start keeping $1k as a buffer in my checking account. I think I just need to train myself that this is strictly a buffer and I shouldn’t spend it down!

What about you? Thoughts on all these opinions? How much do you keep as a buffer in your checking account?