I subscribe to the online newsletter “The Dollar Stretcher: Living Better…For Less” and love to read frugal living tips. Occasionally I like to make a contribution by submitting a tip of my own.
My recent tip It Pays to Check Your Bills was published in the Volume 16, Number 1 (January 3, 2011) issue of The Dollar Stretcher.
It Pays to Check Your Bills
Checking your bills is important in this era of automatic bill pay
Most of my family’s bills are paid automatically either from our credit card or bank accounts. Whenever possible, I set up an automatic bill payment plan, using a credit card. For companies that don’t offer automatic bill pay plans, or charge extra fees for paying with credit cards, they can usually be paid automatically from our bank account.
This saves time and money. And I don’t have to worry about late payments and late fees. I only need to make sure that there is enough money in our bank account to cover the credit card bills and a few other bills.
I usually check all the bills I receive. I like to get a clear picture of what I am paying. For credit card statements, I cross check what’s on the statements with the receipts I have.
I found mistakes with double charges. I had charges made from an Arabic country on my statements that I didn’t recognize. I also disputed charges because of bad services or products. When I contact credit card companies for any of the problems, they are very good at helping me and getting the problems resolved.
I also look at my receipts when I do grocery shopping. Over-charging happens. At one oriental food market I frequently shop in St. Paul, the error rate was unusually high. I had to bring it to the manager’s attention.
Recently I received one subscription renewal notice from the local newspaper. When I put it in my file folder and took a look at last year’s notice, I noticed two things. First, this year’s renewal date is one month earlier than last year’s. Second, this year’s price has doubled from last year’s.
I had to call the paper to find out why. It turned out that the renewal date was indeed wrong. It was one month earlier than it should have been. I don’t know how it happened. I got an apology. I wonder how many customers have the same error on their renewal notices and how many people would even notice this.
When I was told that the subscription price has increased for all, I simply said I wanted to cancel the paper when the current subscription expires next month. The customer service representative said that she did not want to lose me as a customer and she wanted to check with her supervisor to see if she could offer me a better deal. Seconds later, she told me that I could keep last year’s rate. OK, then I’ll keep my paper. I felt like I was talking to a car sales person.
It took me a few minutes of time, but I think it definitely is worth it. It pays to check your bills and receipts, and take the time to ask if you notice any problems.
Qin Tang is a librarian and writer. She has a passion for healthy, green, simple, frugal, mindful and soulful living. Visit her blog at www.areavoices.com/onmymind.