Thursday, July 23

Wherein I go all 'old school'

Do people even pay bills by check anymore?

I mean, I usually do one or two, but the bulk get paid electronically. There are plenty of reasons it's better. While 42 cents doesn't sound like a lot, it can add up pretty quickly when you have a phone bill, a cable/satellite bill, a couple of credit cards, and more. I could also argue that electronic transfers come with confirmation numbers, compared to no guarantee (at least, without extra payment) when you mail things through the postal service. I did actually have a bill that never arrived at its destination. I was charged a late fee and, when I called the post office to complain, was essentially told there was nothing they would do.

The truth, though, is that electronic payments work best for me. It works with my procrastination-riddled personality. I can make a payment right up until about noon on the actual due date, compared with how early you have to send a check to avoid any worry of late fees. I don't have to keep stamps around all the time or get to a post office box. (These days, there's one across the street, but in the past I was never remotely close to one.)

So I was somewhat surprised to find myself writing out checks Tuesday evening. There was Tim's psychiatrist, Tim's dermatologist, an old ER co-pay, a phone bill and at least one more that now escapes me.

Really, these could all have been put on a card and paid later, which would have gained us miles through United. This passed through my mind a few times, actually, as I wrote out each check. But I had some strange mental block against doing it that way.

It could be that I'm becoming credit-card averse. Although I think that's only part of it. While I am truly committed to only charging what we absolutely have to, I think I'm also just financially stressed beyond belief.

This has been a bad 5 or so weeks. We got the $500 bill from the dermatologist, which had been building for about 6 months. Then The Body Shop had its sale on Tim's products. Since this only happens once or twice a year, we had to stock up. That put another $340 on the card, which will, at least, be offset by the 5% back from Ebates.

That meant that the United bill was over $800 -- and that was before I had to reorder my energy meds this week. Yet another $340 tacked on. Ouch.

So, more than likely, I was determined to write checks because my poor little heart couldn't bear to see the United bill get any higher. Too painful. As it is, after the checks, we could only throw $360 at that large sum.

Still, I consider this a step in the right direction. Paying with checks means that I have to consciously keep money aside for them. It means paying money with what we have, rather than putting them on the card to be worried about later. Delayed stress is almost always worse. In the back of your mind, you know it's there, but it's amorphouse and sinister. At least by writing checks, you know the exact size and shape of it.

Although I suppose I should note: When it comes to paying credit cards, I still pay electronically. I still have trouble with due dates, so I'll probably always handle them that way.

So what about you guys? Do you do better with checks? Or online payments?



Anonymous Shevy said...

I do best with pre-authorized payments. Electric, cable, internet, car payments, insurance of all kinds, RRSPs, my child's RESP. I even had my rent at one place taken out pre-authorized.

But I only do it for amounts that stay the same from month to month (the electric bill was on equal payments). I refuse to allow people like my cell provider or a credit card to take their money that way. I want to check those bills and only pay if it seems to be correct. Plus, what if you run up a big long distance bill one month and they pull the money out on an arbitrary date that just happens to be the day before you get paid this pay period?

I prefer to pay most variable payments of this nature or very irregular ones (like annual property taxes) by paying online.

Then there's rent, tuition and a couple of charitable donations that can only be paid by cheque, often with a series of post-dated cheques. But I don't mail them. I hand them over in person.

That reminds me. I can't find my chequebook and I need to write the cheques for my daughter's school (because the first one comes out Aug 1st). I'd better start looking tomorrow.

July 23, 2009 at 11:27 PM

Blogger Meg said...

We have most or maybe even all our regular bills on auto-pay. Other things we use our check card for. I'm done with CCs, rewards points or no.

July 24, 2009 at 12:39 PM

Blogger OODA said...

I do a mixture of things. I have some payments coming from my checking account automatically, while others I go to my bank online and use BillPay so a check is sent. I'm not sure why I don't just have it all taken automatically but for some reason I haven't set them all up. Now with my husband's business, I've found that I prefer paying by check, although there are a couple of bills that I use his debit card to pay online.

September 12, 2009 at 1:26 PM


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