Automatic bill pay. It’s awesome. And it can also lead to automatic bill creep. Let me explain.
Automation is magical. Set it up once, fuhgeddaboudit, and your life is completely supported without much management.
But automation can also lead to bills creeping up in cost without you being aware of it. And to be honest…I think companies bank on this.
Take our recent examples:
Automated Bill Creep on Two of Our Accounts
During the last round of my course, Save Beyond Your Means (you can join the waiting list here), I realized a bill that was way out of whack in our household: our internet/cable bill.
When we first signed on with AT&T, the cost was around $115 (I get a tax deduction on the internet part for my business).
Do you know what I found when I looked at our current bill? $168 staring back at me!
Turns out I was out of contract and the promotions had ended…um…three months ago (for shame).
This was a big slip-up in our household, as I’m usually quite diligent about this sort of thing. But I’m living proof that life gets busy and — once bills are automated — they can be overlooked.
And it didn’t stop there. I decided to take a peek at one of the only bills we still receive by paper. Turns out we’ve been paying a $0.99 ringtone charge for months that neither of us can figure out how we signed up for it!
Fortunately for us, I was able to use my ninja negotiation skills (I teach these to my course-takers) with a rep in the retentions department to get the same service we were enjoying before + increased speed on our internet at a locked-in rate of $102 for the next 12 months.
On top of that, the rep gave me a $55 bill credit. Woohoo!
This means I brought $727 into our household over the next year (after taxes are accounted for) with just 24 minutes of my time (return on my time = $30.29/minute)! I call that time well spent.
And for the ringtone charge? A simple, five-minute online chat ensured that over the next year we are going to save $11.88. Hey…that’s a movie ticket + 1/4 of a hot dog! We’ll take it.
How to Keep this from Happening to You
So how can you save yourself from this oopsy mistake?
- Set up a reminder alert in your calendar every six months, 3 months, or when the promotional period ends to reassess. The key here is to set this up as soon as you get the new promotion, while it’s fresh on your mind. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to call the company (or to check your bill).
- Time your phone calls and bill audits for a specific time of year so that it becomes second nature. For example, instead of spring cleaning and fall pumpkin carving, how about spring bill checkup and winter financial detox…perhaps time your insurance price checkups with your six-month dental cleanings.
Automation is awesome, and I will talk about its benefits until I’m pea-green in the face. But there’s one problem with it–you might just get so trusting with the ease that you forget to look every so often. Especially when its combined with paperless statements. Use one of the two tips above and stop this from happening to you!