What I Discovered When I Started to READ My Bills

Oh! What you can learn when you read your bills.  It is one of the first steps you need to take to get your finances order.

Embarrassing confession – I used to pay very little attention to my bills.  I would check that my payment was received and that the amount due was in the ball park, but very little beyond that.  When I decided to get serious about my messy money, I did a thorough review of all my bills and I was surprised by what I learned.It is common sense, right?  It makes sense to READ the bill you have been sent.  But there is a psychological barrier to facing reality, and I used to approach my bills with either dread or indifference.  Bills were bad news, a chore and complicated.  Knowledge is power, though, and the more I scrutinized my bills, the more opportunities I found for savings and ways to simplify my finances. Now I read ’em till it hurts.

open your bills messy money

 

My approach with all household bills:

  1. Verify that payment was received.  This is key to ensure that my account does not fall into past due status and accrue late/interest charges.
  2. Compare amount to previous bill.
    • Is it higher or lower, and if so, why?
    • If the amount has increased, do I need to make adjustments to my budget?
    • If the amount has decreased is it a sustainable decrease?  What can I do to replicate those savings?

 

The Bill Deep Dive:

It has been worth the effort to check my bills and really understand how I am being billed and what I am being charged for.  Things I review during a deep dive:

What time frame am I being billed for?  30 days, 180 days?

  • Is this billing frequency working for my budget and if not, can I change it?   Cash flow is important and I have found that by changing billing frequency, I have been able to balance my inflow and outflow of money.
  • This also goes for due dates.  I had a bill that always seemed to come due the day before payday.  I asked the company to permanently adjust this date so that it aligns with my pay schedule.

Is this bill on a budget or instalment plan?

  • Some companies offer budget plans, where you are billed a constant amount, every month, over the course of a year based on an estimate of annual usage.  This type of billing can help smooth out billing months where usage may be higher due to seasonal factors (i.e. Winter heating.)
  • I ask myself if the estimates they are using align with actual usage, and if not ask that they adjust.  I would prefer to be balanced at the end of the year and not have a large deficit or leave the utility company holding on to my money.
  • I also check if there is a fee for the budget plan.  My car insurance company charges 3% on a monthly plan (insane!!!) but only $5 for three instalment payments, so I opted for instalments to cut my insurance costs.

Are there service charges or fees on my bill?

  • If so, what are they for, and how can I eliminate them?  I call the billing company and ask for this information and ask for tips on how to avoid them in the future.
  • Sometimes, new fees are introduced and buried in the fine print.  Sometimes the fees are a billing mistake.  Sometimes fees are a legitimate charge, but I need to understand what I am being billed for.

Am I in the right price package?

  • TWICE my phone company introduced new service packages that were less expensive than mine and offered all the features I needed.  They did not pro-actively let me know that there might be a better offer for me and as a result I was paying more than I needed to.  Oh the injustice!  I keep an eye on prices now and adjust if needed.

It sounds like a lot of work and maybe it was in the beginning.  Now that I have a good understanding of my bills I can spot potential issues easily and act early.  It has been worth every ounce of effort and it helps me feel like I control over my bills, they don’t control me.

Thanks for visiting.

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