Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tip 33: Reduce your bill (mail)

First of all, I realize this is the latest I have ever blogged in the day (and I bet some of you were thinking, "Maybe today will be the day she breaks her blogging streak!"). Well folks, this post is primarily late because I just got home from my monthly book club (yes, I am a huge proponent of organized activities, obviously, and I will blog about its evolution later).

I wish I could tell you how to reduce the number of bills you receive in a month and how to reduce the amount you owe each month, but the only thing I can say is ask for special deals, especially any perks you may get through your employer, and/or threaten to switch to a different service (we're mostly talking about TV, cell phones, Internet...good luck negotiating with the power companies, though I am sure someone succeeds here). At most, though, this knocks $10 or maybe $15, $20 off your monthly bills, but not enough to retire at 35 (my dream). What I can say, though, is that if you haven't already....

Tip 33: To further reduce the amount of paper that comes into your house, your need for shredding and recycling, and to reduce your chances of a late payment, conduct all of your bill pay online.

Up until a year ago I was still holding on to doing some of my bill pay through snail mail, namely for our mortgage. I don't know why I stuck to this. I think it was partially because I didn't trust online bill pay for everything (but still did for most things), and partially because our mortgage company would charge an incredibly high fee for every mortgage paid through their site. It made no sense. Then Matt said, "Why don't you use our bank's Web site for online bill pay?" Why didn't I think of that? Setting it up takes about two minutes, and the payoff (in time) is huge.

Here's how our monthly bills work:

1) As teachers we get paid once a month, on the last work day of the month. Some of my non-teacher friends think this is outrageous and don't know how we cope. The answer is, it's very easy: your bills are due once a month.

2) I manage all the daily household finances. Matt knows way more than me about the stock market and the intricacies of loans, so I let him handle that, but I'm more type A and never miss a payment, so this is my strength.

3) The only paper bills we receive in the mail each month are: 1) mortgage statements, which I file into a special binder only for mortgage documents and 2) the water bill, which we get once every three months and the company will not do e-bill. I love e-bill. I try only to keep one copy of the most recent water bill on file and shred the rest.

4) We pay the following bills through these means each month:
  • The mortgage is due the start of each month, so that's set up through online bill pay. I don't do automatic pay for this because it's such a huge amount and I want to see it go through (though I realize I could set up automatic pay).
  • The credit card #1 is paid online through the card's site at the start of each month. I do this manually. Also, we charge almost all of our everyday expenses mostly to keep track of all purchases and our budget, but we pay the card off in full every month (and we save a lot of money each month, too).
  • Homeowner's association dues are automatic bill pay at the start of each month.
  • Auto and home insurance (one charge) is automatic bill pay at the start of each month.
  • Electricity is automatic bill pay at the middle of each month.
  • Gas is something I pay manually through the company's site at the middle of each month.
  • TV/Internet/cell phone (one charge) is automatic bill pay at the end of each month.
  • Water is every three months, and I pay this manually through bill pay.
  • Credit card #2 has occasional small charges, so we pay that off through the company's site as needed.
5) For the smaller items that are not set up for automatic bill pay (gas, credit card #2, water) I pay those bills as soon as I receive the e-bill email notification. For the larger items that are not set up for automatic bill pay (mortgage, credit card #1), I pay those bills at the end of each month on pay day. It's fun to have (what seems like) a lot of money in our account for about 8 hours.

It may seem like a lot to manage, but it's actually not. Here's my formula: I see a lot of money in my bank account = sign it's time to hand some money over. I get an email notification = time to pay a smaller bill. Everything else is taken care of for me. If you're a control freak like me and you're worried your automatic bill pay won't go through on time, never fear: it is more reliable than you are.

Lastly, just the other day I experienced one of the negative side effects of having paper bills laying around. Because we always get paper copies of the water bill in the mail, and this month was water month, I was looking at this month's bill the other day and thought I had not paid it. Then I realized if I had not paid it, it was overdue. Then I logged onto bill pay and realized that I had, of course, paid it the day it arrived in the mail, but my heart raced a tiny bit when I thought I would have to pay a $3.50 late fee and tarnish my perfect record.

Even though junkmail and bills are yucky, there are some better sides to mail, too. Let's start looking at some of those tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment