Friday, January 6, 2012

E-bills--helpful or no?

With the rise of internet banking and, well, internet everything, we've switched most of our utility and personal bills to "e-bills." And because it helps the environment :-) But here's the thing: I'm the type of person who reallllly likes to write things down. It's a habit I learned from my mother who writes the date she pays the bill, check number, and amount on every bill she has. I do that to now. I like paper. Even though it's NOT good for the environment, I really like paper. I like how organized it makes me feel. So now that I don't have hard copies of bills anymore in case the IRS wants to see them makes me nervous. I should also point out that our credit union just got online banking 6 months ago. I hadn't had that since my Wells Fargo days back in Minnesota. I had become accustomed to hand writing transactions into my account ledger, and even now, when I can pull up my accounts at the click of a button, what am I doing? Still writing down my transactions in a ledger, even if it's just copying it down from the computer screen. Why? Because I feel better about life when I've done so.

What to do now though with the advent of e-bills? We have not taken the leap to automatic bill pay for our utilities, which just seems way to out of control for me. We do have it for our insurance and my student loans, but my heart is palpitating a bit just from thinking about everything being so automated. I still log in to all of our accounts every month to hit the "pay now" button. I have developed a pretty good system for that based on our mortgage due date (the first of the month) which I feel is the most important bill we have to pay right now! On the last day of every month, I make sure both Jake and I have transferred our respective shares over to our house account, and then, within a matter of 15 minutes, watch most of that money go out the window to our mortgage company, Sprint, Verizon, and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. I enter in any automatic payments that will come up into the register at that time to make sure there'll be enough money. Balance the ledger, and call it a day. Other bills pop up during the month which I pay for at that time. That's the general flow of things.

But what about the e-bills? How do I keep track--in another place, just for good measure--that I have paid my bills???

Solution: download the bills at the same time I pay them to my computer. I can then make a note on the .pdf of when I paid the bill and for how much (which I still do even though I always pay the full amount, even on my credit cards). So simple. So easy. I am breathing better already :-)

Tonight I started to do just this (although you will note this is not the last day of the month. Strokes of genius can't always come when needed). And I'm really glad I did. Most companies only have a 6 month history of your e-bills, even though you should keep your bills for one year then shred them or delete them. Or so the financial gods say.

What do you think--e-bills? Helpful in the long run or more trouble than they are worth?

P.S. Resolution to take photos every day = colossal failure. Will just have to take more on the weekends to compensate.

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