Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Electronic Bill Paying

In working towards "paperlessness" (and becoming more fiscally responsible) I decided to switch from paying my bills via snail mail with checks to online bill pay. Yesterday I added a couple of my newest bills to the system, just in time to realize I needed to pay my gas bill.

I used to open the bills and throw them onto the kitchen table. I'd see them there and realize I had bills to pay, eventually (when I had funds in the bank) I'd gather them up and write out checks and mail them all. Now that I've set up online bill-pay I don't have the bills cluttering up the kitchen table as a reminder to pay them.

I initially set up the electronic fund transfers as "manual" since I'm not yet comfortable having funds transfered without my knowledge. I still receive bills in the mail, which is the next step I'm looking forward to changing. I set up reminders to pay certain bills a couple days before their due dates as events in my Google calendar, and had them sent to my cell phone - bad idea. I'd get a text message reminding me to pay the gas bill while I was out having lunch or somewhere similarly inconvenient. Later I'd forget that I was reminded.

My bank allows me the option of eBills, described as the following:
Electronic bills (eBills) are online versions of your paper bills that you receive, view, and pay through Bill Pay. The only difference between an electronic bill and a paper bill is that you receive an electronic bill online, not through the mail. Although it may be displayed differently, all of the information you receive in your paper bill is presented online, and the frequency of the bill remains the same. You can print the eBills for your records, and set reminders for yourself to pay the eBill when payment is due.
So little by little I think I'm getting the hang of paying bills online. I now have about seven bills to pay every month and since I'm not sending them via snail mail and don't require the stamps I figure I'll be saving (7 x 42¢) $2.94 per month, which doesn't sound like much but over the course of a year ($2.94 x 12) it would come to over $35!

If anyone has experience with electronically managing their finances please chime in. What advice would you give to a newbie such as myself? Are there any downfalls you're aware of? Do you still use any paper accounting methods? Any comments and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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