Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Road warrior bill payments
My lovely wife and I closed our New Hampshire home in October and headed south. I made a lot of changes in the way our finances ran.
Before the trip bills were paid by check. It was easy to keep things straight. Very few things were paid automatically. That system certainly wasn't going to work when mail might take weeks or even months to catch up with me. With that in mind changes were made in my payment system so that it could be run from afar.
How's that been working out for me? It works fine about 85% of the time. I wish I could have streamlined things a bit more, but was hampered by my main financial institution being absorbed by a bigger institution. The chaos of that changeover ate up a lot of time and energy.
One of the things that worked well was getting rid of a few bills entirely. Cable Internet service is temporary shut down. The electric company has been canceled completely. It seemed like a good time to go completely off grid. Those are two bills that need to get paid even if no services are used. It was much easier to deal with the Internet provider, a small local company, than the power utility, a big Interstate corporation. The house has its own well and septic system, so those are two bills I never have.
Most of the other bills were set up to be paid automatically. While I'd never been a big fan of automatic payments, these are working out well. The key, at least for me, is that the bills paid that way are the same amount every month. In fact, it worked out so well I won't go back to paper checks when I get home. At the price of postage, that's a small but real savings. It saves time too.
Insurance is something that didn't work out as planned. My house insurance is paid twice a year. The vehicle insurance is paid quarterly. The plan was to pay those on-line as they became due. Problems arose when I discovered the on-line payment site had changed after I left. My old logins didn't work on the new site. Fortunately, I was able to get my local agent on the phone and she sorted everything out for me quickly and easily. As for boat insurance, Boat US's on-line insurance payment system was pretty straight forward.
Getting the sailboat's new 2014 registration was interesting. I called my town clerk on the phone. She instructed me to write two checks, one to the town and one to state. A stamped self addressed envelope, copy of the old registration, plus the checks had to be sent to the town. It took several weeks for the new paperwork and boat stickers to come in. Good thing we were hanging at dad's for the holidays during that time.
One thing that this trip has brought home to me is how many darn bills I actually have to pay each month. By next year, there will be a lot fewer of them, that's for sure.
To keep keep track of this stuff I've needed reliable Internet service (provided by an iphone), cell phone service to talk with people, and a place where I could eventually catch up to my snail mail. While not as streamlined and effortless as I'd liked, it works well enough to do the job.