Sticking To Paper Bills…

You’d think that with all the accounts that I have, I would love getting my bills electronically. Nope. I recently tried to go 100% e-bill. Nearly ended very badly with multiple late payments. I get so many e-mails a day, it’s just too easy for me to put them off initially. Of course, if it then gets pushed off the first page of e-mails, I may never see it again for weeks.

Paper bills are nice in that even with a cluttered desktop, I still clean it off constantly and at most I wait a few days before paying the bill online. For some reason, also having a hardcopy of the bill for recordkeeping is comforting. Anyhow, not that anyone cares, but I’m now back to 100% paper bills. Even if Citi keeps dangling that $5 carrot to get me back…

Comments

  1. Just for clarification, you are still paying electronically right?

    I don’t think paper bills solves the root of the problem. I had the same problem with paper bills. If I put the paper bill aside, I might forget about it for weeks as well. My solution is that I set a calendar reminder twice a month with a list of bills that I need to pay. The great part of billpay is that you can schedule the payment for a later date, so you don’t have to worry about paying the bill “too early”. I have never paid a bill late with this system.

  2. Oh yeah, definitely paying electronically.

    I do the same thing as you, I schedule the payment for just a day or two before the due date (for no reason, just paranoid), in order the maximize the interest on my Presidential Checking account.

    It’s all about ‘presence’ for me. I never go a week without completely clearing my desk off, so I always see it and schedule a payment so I can file it away. E-mails I let pile up for weeks, it’s a bad habit of mine.

  3. You can always call Citibank and have them send you forms for autopay, which you have to mail back in. They’ll add autopay to accountonline. You can autopay from a checking or savings account on the statement due date. You can change your bank accounts and adjust payment amounts online (minimum, statement ending, other). It takes a few days business days for any changes to take affect, so be careful.

  4. frugalman says:

    same with me. paper bills. electronic payment.
    For record keeping. good “physical” reminder to pay it and also, i like a paper copy if I need to go back and review a payment.

  5. Same thing here. I stick with the “pay me first” philosophy. I often set the pay date one or two days prior to the due date and have the bank deducted the balance.

    On the other hand, it saves me time. I don’t have to manually input the amount in Microsoft Money.

  6. Paper bills would be nice right about now as I try to total up 3 years worth of Federal Excise Tax on all my phone bills… damn you e-bills that only let us see back 6 months!

  7. I forgot to also blame the heavy duty shredder I got as a Christmas present… it makes it too fun and too easy to shred old bills.

  8. I prefer to get my bills and bank statements electronically and don’t like the companies that don’t offer electronic only.

  9. You are absolutely right about this. Two years ago a thunderstorm fried my computer and my backup system. I lost all my financial records and investment tracking datas.

    Then I noticed since I have had turned off paper bills for awhile, it was impossible for me to recover all the data that was lost.

    A lesson to remember.

  10. I’m still dealing with a horrible experience with paying electronically. I set up a payment to pay the car loan on June 20th and the bank claims they sent a paper check on June 15. Well the car company didn’t get it in time, so I put in a stop payment on the check and paid by phone. Late fees that aren’t your fault suck, yet I doubt I’ll get reimbursed for the fees since I put a stop payment on the check. I was just paranoid about the payment being late, so I had to do something about it. From now on, I’ll only pay bills with billpay that transfer funds electronically.

    As for missing emails, depending on what your email program is, couldn’t you just have bills put into one folder or category using a rule or filter? Then, you could just keep an eye on that bills folder and you shouldn’t miss much.

  11. I just wrote about this same thing, a lot of people responded that they’re more likely to act on electronic messages than paper oens… I guess it’s just a matter of how each of our brains is wired.

  12. Jonathan Bright says:

    One suggestion is to have a seperate e-mail account for personal things. I have ran large web sites in the past and I would always keep a seperate account that didn’t get the clutter of my main e-mail account. Of course the catch is remembering to monitor 2 accounts. But most of the time you can even forward copies of all the emails over to your main account just for added security.

  13. I hear you, Jonathan. I tried doing the same thing.

    My problem was always forgetting to “mark the email as read” after I read it so I’d know to go back to it later.

    I’m sure I could make it work if I had the discipline to organize my emails better.

    -Grant

  14. Use the automatic bill payment in BofA…

  15. I almost never use my checkbook anymore for bills. If I can’t pay the bill online by credit card (and earn a cash-back reward), I’ll use my bank’s online bill pay. I usually don’t schedule payments in advance so the reminder that I use is to automatically filter the emailed bill and move it from my inbox to my ‘To Pay’ folder and keep it marked as ‘New’, even after I’ve viewed it a few times. After paying, I move it to a ‘To File’ folder until I get a chance to archive my email.

    As for paper records, I write transaction numbers and dates for each payment on the paper bill that I get in the mail, or I just print out the online receipt. Then I file it in a bin of hanging folders. When I’m not near a printer (or just lazy), I print out the online receipt as a PDF (try PrimoPDF) and deal with it later.

  16. Do not have this issue using Bank of America. Almost all bills are paperless, no paper in the mail in order to cut down on potential identity theft. The only thing I see are ‘E-Bills’ in BofA. This includes all credit cards, phone, electric, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc. All other bills from satellite, VOIP, etc. are charged to a credit card and are also paperless. Pay the credit card bill, pay these bills. Am left with two paper bills from the Gas Company, who for some reason won’t signon with BofA for E-Bills, and my homeowner’s association. One can choose to automatically pay the E-bills or they can be paid electronically manually. On the surface it would seem to me that BofA has the better e-bill system IMHO. Paper is too easy to lose track of.

  17. why dont u have all ur bills automatically charged to one credit card where u get some reward and then just pay that off….

    thats what i do…saves time and hassle…and i get something for my money

  18. I fell into that camp until a few weeks ago when my and my roomate’s mail was stolen from our apartments’s group mailbox in Phoenix. My roommate just cashed out his stock options and had about $5,000 worth of E-trade checks. They found the guy methed out, jaywalking across an intersection, with the checks in his back pocket. Blind luck for my roommate, I guess.

    Not to mention, the USPS can be quite bumbling at times when it comes to apartments. I’m sure if I had a house things would be different, but as far as apartment living goes, I’ve been spooked into going electronic.

  19. I’m the same way.

    Sometimes I see an email but don’t have time to open the link, log on to my account, retrieve the bill and read it. Once the bold face is removed from the email, I forget about it. There’s nothing to remind me.

    If it were a paper bill, it takes 5 seconds to open and tear off the payment portion. I may note the due date and amount in my calendar right then, but if I don’t, the paper clutter reminds me of it later.

    I pay all bills online, preferably with a CC, but some companies (electric and water company) won’t let you pay on their website unless you get electronic bills. I hate that!

    I’ve made the mistake of paying late a few times with electronic bills but never late enough to incur a late fee. If it becomes a recurring problem or I’m charged a fee, I’ll go back to paper bills and just pay via my checking acct billpay system. No rewards, but the lesser of two evils.

  20. If you’re using gmail or any other decent type of email software couldn’t you just setup filters for the bill emails and have them all automatically gathered into a nice label/folder?

    Just a thought :)

  21. I’ve been inundated with letters of statements from the two banks I belong to. So I went electronic to help the banks save paper. And to reduce clutter.

    Good blog

  22. The other reason to receive paper bills is because they’re required for tracking (expense reporting, IRS documentation, etc.) purposes, so I’m with you–it’s not worth the $5 if I’ve got to print out the bills anyway.

  23. I only use e-bills. Whenever I get one I immediately schedule a payment for it (a few days before the due date). Though it’s more convenient for me mainly because I only get mail at my “billing address” roughly every 2-3 weeks.

  24. I am the opposite. The only time I was ever late with a payment was when I received them by paper. I find it easier using an online calender and marking all the things I need to do on that day, including paying bills. I tried out google’s version but I’m sure others are just as good. For me, I am more likely to respond to seeing a reminder online and I avoid losing or misplacing the bill at home.

  25. I use primarily e-bills, but do use a couple of paperbills. I haven’t run into the problems many of you have faced, but that’s because I do things differently:

    1) I back-up ALL financial data on a weekly basis, on a HD that I disconnect from my system as soon as I’ve finished backing up the data.

    2) I have nearly all of my bills automatically deducted from my account, I use Bill Pay to pay the others. In some cases (like with utilities) I have an estimated payment going out automatically, which I can then update when the bill comes or wait a few months and then adjust.

    3) In MS Money I have recurring payments set-up that map back to the Bill Pays/auto deductions. I maintain that same day in my financial projections spreadsheet (I project my income, savings, spending and net worth impact at least 9-months in advance)

    4) I use E-Trade Bill Pay, as they GUARANTEE that the payment will arrive in time OR they’ll notify the creditor and pay any fees that occur. To avoid serious problems with things like my Car Note, I have that deducted automatically and the check for my student loan sent out 10 days in advance. I also verify payments for credit cards, in instances when I have a balance to pay.

    5) My E-trade Bill pay account is ONLY for bills and I have a Brokerage Account linked to it where I store my X-months expenses for a rainy day in a mixture of cash, bonds and conservative income investments.

    As an extremely busy person, this works out well for me, as I spend very little time managing bill payments. If I only dealt with paper bills, they would definitely pill-up and electronic ones, ditto – I use auto debits and bill pay to make sure it gets done.

    -Mark

  26. Like Mark above in 3) I also have recurring payments set up in MS Money that map to e-bills and non-e-bill payments primarily to track cashflow but also to remind me to pay certain bills like my property taxes every six months. Projecting cashflow allows me to move any extra funds out of my checking into Emigrant or GMAC. MS Money used to have a pop-up feature for recurring bills when you logged on to your computer but I think it disappeared a couple of releases ago. It was a great reminder feature.

  27. I was actually wondering how everyone is going to figure out how much in excise tax. I m an accountant, and i dont even know myself. I have a strange feeling the IRS will mandate the companies you paid the exise tax to, to send you a 1098 by year end! (I think)…i have a feeling this tax season is going to be a nightmare with that stupid credit!

  28. Heather says:

    I had the same problem. At first, when I starting receiving e-statements, I was late on one or two bills. After I was finished panicking, I developed a spread sheet with all my bills listed. Now, as soon as I pay a bill online, I list all the info on my excel spread sheet.

  29. samerwriter says:

    I guess I’m a luddite; I eschew both electronic bills and electronic billpay.

    There are a few reasons for this:

    1) I like for paying bills to be a pain in the rear. That encourages me to minimize my bills, and simplify my finances. That gives me peace of mind.

    2) I don’t trust the bank to pay my bills on time. If they screw up, are they going to pay the late fees and repair my credit rating?

    3) I’ll never allow auto-deductions, since I want control over every penny that leaves my checking account. It is not unheard of for software bugs to cause auto-deduction to withdraw more money than is due.

    4) I treat email pretty casually. I’d never remember to pay bills that come via email, especially once they fell off the first screen of my inbox. Further, jokes about the USPS aside, I’ve never had them lose an important letter of mine. However, I don’t trust the internet to be available when I need it.

    I’d _like_ to have everything on autopay to a credit card, and still receive paper bills. That way I could review all my bills each month, but only have to write a single check. Unfortunately many companies don’t offer credit card payment yet.

  30. I use Micro$oft Money for tracking all my accounts and all my bill payments, I took some time to set up and get into the swing of it. That being said given my current lifestyle (I’m on the move a lot and often away from home) I’m more likely to miss a paper bill than the electronic reminder :)

  31. Samerwriter: “2) I don’t trust the bank to pay my bills on time. If they screw up, are they going to pay the late fees and repair my credit rating?”

    Actually, yes they do and will. Atleast the two bill payment systems I use from two different Credit Unions specifically state that they are liable for any late fees for late payments if the payment is correctly setup and if it was their fault.

  32. I fear I’m just as bad if not worse with my paper mail. I tend to put it aside and forget I have it.

    The cool thing about electronic bills is that I can put a little reminder in Outlook to remind me to pay.

    That, and I’m saving trees. :)

  33. For those of you who have bills automatically drafted – what happens if the billing amount is screwed up and they charge you more than you really owe? You end up paying that extra charge automatically. Do you check over your bills carefully, or since they’re auto-drafted, do you just ignore them because you know the payment won’t be late?

    We’ve had a few bills that come with things that we didn’t sign up for, and if we didn’t watch them and just let them auto pay, then we’d be out that money that we didn’t agree to.

  34. I seem to be in the minority here. I hate getting paper statements. I do all my bill paying online and the thing I hate the most with paper statements since I do everything online is that I end up with piles of statements that I need to shred or tear up.

  35. Another comment about filters on gmail. While you only have one email account with Gmail, they allow you to have as many variations of that name if you use a “+” sign. For instance: Yourname@Gmail.com will also receive email to YourName+Bills@Gmail.com. Set up a filter for “YourName+Bills@Gmail.com” to move it to a Bills label and archive it at the same time. Change your email address from the billing company. Then delete items from that Label as you pay them. Simple.

  36. I use BofA billpay and LOVE E-bills. It is so easy to pay from one site and having the bills online instead of paper bills helps keep my info more secure. Does anyone know if ETrade bank has e-bill presentment?

  37. Philip Arnason says:

    No offense, but your email management must suck. Check out this video for help pronto: http://www.43folders.com/2007/.....-zero-talk

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