Size Matters: Avoiding Big Bills!
Usually bigger is better right? I like my men tall, my milkshakes large, my pay-cheques massive, and my lotto wins astronomical.
But my bills? I like them small. Tiny. Invisible.
But I don’t always get what I want. But hey, I’m grateful I can control my milkshakes.
The most troubling thing about bills is how they creep up on you. You’re just living life, cranking that air conditioner, washing machine, Neflix, and then suddenly there it is: An absolute whopper of an electricity bill. It’s the sort of bill that makes hand-washing clothes and sitting in the dark appealing again.
I wish I could write some magic spell to make all the bills go away. But unless you have plans for some off-grid living the bills are going to keep coming. The gas, phone, Internet, water, and so on.
But you actually do have control.
My husband and I have recently done the following to take the sting out of our bills.
Most utilities have an online members service that you can set up that allows you to control how you pay your bills.
If you don’t already have any online services setup, now is the time to make a list. Think about every single bill that you pay. Everything from regular utilities like gas, water, and electricity, all the way to your council rates and car insurance.
Find the websites for each service provider and sign up for online member services. Having access to your account online will save you time that you don’t have to spend on the phone. These online services allow you to send messages, and requests, and manage your account details without having to wait.
You’ll find that each provider’s online service has options for how you pay your bill.
SO HOW DO YOU WANT TO PAY?
That is the real question. And ‘never’ is not the correct answer. Sorry.
We actually have more options than you might think. Bills that will traditionally arrive as a yearly premium, like insurance and rates, actually allow you to pay in installments.
Okay, so usually it works out cheaper to pay in one hit, but what if you don’t have the 2 thousand dollar car insurance premium when you need it?
The cost of living is high, and we rarely have piles of cash lying around.
Service providers will have a set of payment options unique to them. The goal is to use the shortest payment period option. Take your last bill and work out what the average cost would be for that period.
Example 1: Your gas bill comes every two months.
Your gas provider offers a monthly payment option.
Divide your last bill in half.
That is your new monthly payment.
Example 2: Your Internet bill comes every month.
They allow you to pay as much as you like, whenever you like.
Take your monthly bill and multiply by 12 months to get your yearly cost.
Divide by 52 weeks of the year.
That is your new weekly payment.
Our last electricity bill worked out to be somewhere around $48 a week.
So I logged into my online account and set up a weekly direct debit of $50 to the provider. I’ve achieved a couple of things by doing this:
I always know that every week $50 is allocated to electricity
I’m never going to get a big electricity bill I can’t pay. I’ll probably even get a credit.
And this is the whole point of the exercise. I can afford $50 a week. I can’t always pay $600 in one hit.
This won’t always guarantee you won’t get a bill, but I it will ensure that any you do receive will be very small and manageable.
HOW TO KEEP TRACK OF IT ALL
This is where using a great app for tracking your subscriptions is invaluable. The web is a treasure trove of amazing apps and software that can help you manage all your recurring payments. Find one you like and set yourself up. For example, an app like TrackMySubs can track your recurring payments and keep you updated with alerts and reminders so you won’t miss anything.
It’s one thing to have regular payments set up for all your bills, but remembering to have the money actually ready to be debited is another.
I’m a classic for setting something up for a fortnightly direct debit, transferring the money on the wrong week, only to find out I missed the payment altogether.
It’s important to note here that not all service providers will debit from an actual bank account. Some will only debit from a credit card. This means you need to be able to keep track of how much money to put into which account. How much and when. With so many different service providers these days, keeping it all in your head is a stress you don’t need.
Some might not even offer a weekly option. We can pay our electricity every week from our savings account, but can only pay our gas once a month from credit.
I need to stay on top of things so I don’t overdraw my accounts or rack up any credit card fees. As much as I love to throw my money away on frivolities, bank fees do not make the cut.
So this is a 3-step process.
Get set up online with all your service providers.
Set up your bills to pay as often as possible in smaller amounts.
Set up a system or app to track every payment and stay ahead.
And what will you get in return?
Easy access to all your accounts with NO waiting on the phone.
No giant scary bills that come out of nowhere.
No surprises and ultimate control of your money.