Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Coming Out of the Dark

I am a technology junkie, curbed only by budget and something my mother instilled in me that always makes me think, "yeah, you want it, but do you NEED it?" Once I give in and get stuff like satellite TV and DVR, FiOS Internet, an iPod, or a GPS navigation system, I never want to go back. I can't live without Internet access or e-mail for more than a day. I was excited to hook up my new DVD player/recorder to the new flat-panel TV on Mother's Day, even though I'm not supposed to have to do any chores on that day.

Add to that my degree in environmental studies, and it may surprise you that it's only been a week since I adopted online bill pay.

It's true. I have a great fear of digital loss. Paper can be lost, of course. Thrown away, ruined with water, eaten by the cat (my dog doesn't have any interest in paper, but Frisbee loves shredding anything we leave lying around). But it's harder. Digital stuff can go "poof!" with little provocation and not brought back.

So, like, a decade ago, when my bank started holding on to canceled checks, I opted out of that and required them to send them to me. Never mind that in the 16 years I've had an account there, I maybe needed a canceled check one time. Maybe. About six months ago, I finally went paperless with my monthly statements, with all the bank accounts. It felt safe. After all, the bank had to be keeping accessible records, so that even if we had, say, an electromagnetic storm (see my story, The TreeKeeper, they'd have my statement when I needed it.

Banks have offered online bill pay for years. And it's not like I've had any fear of making payments on the Internet. I do it all the time, when payday falls too close to the due date of the bill. But I have other fears:

  • Fear that the bank will fail to make a payment, I won't have proof, and I'll be labeled delinquent

  • Fear that I'll overlook a bill

  • Fear of a system failure, desktop crash, or complete loss of Internet

Last week, guilt overcame fear. I am tired of wasting paper--wasting even more of it when I pay a bill online at the payee's site--and even more, wasting time. It can take a few hours to enter the payments in Quicken and the checkbook (Quicken makes things easy, the checkbook is insurance against the aforementioned crash possibility and is easier to access to check something), write the bills, label and post the envelopes, etc. Not to mention, that horrible licky adhesive is probably giving me cancer of the tongue.

So I made the switch. And no gradual toe/ankle/knee-in-the-water progression for me. I set up a full bill pay account and entered all the bills, AND signed up for paperless billing wherever I could. And, of course, I love it. It's so much faster and easier and less wasteful, on both ends. It makes balancing the checkbook easier, because things clear faster. And it will save money, since I won't be spending it on postage or gas to go to the post office.

I'm still a little nervous. My routine is disrupted. The other day, I got a notice of a bill. Mid pay cycle. Printing the reminder notice would defeat the purpose, but I hate having stuff sitting in my inbox. Stuff in my inbox screams "handle me!" But if I took it out of the inbox, I might overlook it on payday, even though the reminder would be listed at my account site.

So I paid the bill.

Which means things are going to be totally messed up come payday. I mean, I'll pay the e-bills that come in, and that will leave maybe two bills on payday, and I'll feel like I'm missing stuff, and I'll panic, and I'll spend twice as much time researching what I'm missing as I would have spent under the old system in the first place!

Welcome to the 21st century, Ms. Damschroder. *eyeroll*


Cindy Procter-King said...

I've been banking online for years, by which I mean PAYING bills on-line. But I print out evidence of every bill I do pay on-line to compare against my statements when I get them - in the mail. And I continue to receive all my bills in the mail, for all the reasons you've mentioned. I can't see myself changing until forced to.

Natalie Damschroder said...

I'm forcing myself not to print stuff out, and more than half my bills don't have an electronic option, but I keep checking the accounts and the bank records to make sure they went through. :)

Honestly, I'm more afraid that I'll overlook something without my concrete system. But nothing is foolproof. My water bill didn't come one month, and I never would have noticed if I didn't keep a file cycle where I shred them after three months. But there was nothing electronic about that!

It's scary. :)