Thursday, January 7, 2010

Saving Money Is Well Past Due

I just finished reading a blog from The Family Wallet entitled, "Pay Bills Promptly and Save." As expected, the author gave five common-sense suggestions on how to save money. The things that resonated with me the most are the costly extra fees and reconnect charges customers experience when paying bills late.

Reluctantly, I am one of those people who incur a number of late fees on things like the utility bill, video rentals, and parking tickets. It's not that I am without the money, because I have already budgeted those known expenses, but rather a procrastinator with piles of unopened invoices and slow to returning movies.

As one who is rather frugal, I am surprised to find that I allow myself to repeat these bad habits. Clearly, each fee taxed on to the original price is money coming out of my own pocket.

Ways to Stop the Fees


This very morning, I was thinking about ways to decrease my spending on fees. Here is a run down of my list:



  • Automate the Payment
    I am big on automating payments. Thanks to my bank and other direct payment options, I like to put bills on a schedule and let the financial institutions handle the particulars. My strategy has been to use this option when the bill is the same from month to month. A utility bill does not fall into this category. I recall a few times that the utility company charged me an outrageous amount and automatically pulled it from my account. To my surprise, the account had a negative dollar amount because it exceeded my set budget.

    As a result of this blunder, I chose to remove automatic payments for any bill that varies from month to month.

  • Bank's Bill Pay Service
    My checking account has a bill pay service that I can use to schedule payments. With this feature, my bank will send a check to a company on my behalf. This is probably the most likely of solutions as it will not let me spend more than I have and I can schedule payments for any future date.

    The downfall of this option is that I still have to do something each month. When I get a bill, I will need to log on to the banking site, enter the company's details, amount to pay, and date I wish to have the check delivered. The challenge is overcoming my procrastination habits and entering the bill as it comes. It's much easier to say than do.

  • Lick 'em and Stick 'em Stamp
    The only other option that I see is paying bills the old fashioned way. Honestly, this is not an option that I see myself doing now-a-days. So, let me stop right there.

Conclusion


The idea of saving money through fee avoidance is the right thing to do. In order to achieve this, I will have to master my own procrastination habits and seek to use the available tools before me.

Another lesson that I have learned through a recent ordeal is the importance of managing my accounts. With automated processes, I should keep a watchful eye on the transactions as well as my bank statements. Doing so will enable me to catch mistakes as they happen, not only when it negatively affects my situation.

As a grown man, you wouldn't think I'd be running into these problems. This just goes to show you that vigilance and proactively managing ones life are still important responsibilities. That fact becomes more true the further removed one is from the action.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject. What tactics do you use to stay on-top of bills so as to avoid late fees? What advice would you give?

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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