Should You Automate Your Bill Payments?

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Automated payments are handy, but present potential risks.

As a part of my personal neurosis, I have a series of alerts set up to inform me of important goings on in my life. Bills coming due, assignments from work, important communications from friends and family, and so on. It’s a helpful system, but it’s also, rather paradoxically, absolutely maddening to live with, which is why I try to automate as much as I can so I don’t have to be bothered with it. Primarily, this means automating payments to things like utilities, subscriptions, insurance, and so on. However, while I automate a good portion of my payments, I don’t automate all of them, and there’s a reason for that.

The problem with automating your payments to something is that you’re operating on the assumption that everything will be status quo with each payment. Now, I’m not trying to catastrophize here, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that life is rarely so accommodating as to work perfectly without your supervision. Once, I ended up past due on my health insurance payments because they were automated, but when I forgot to update some information, my payments stopped processing.

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I automate some of my regular expenses if they aren’t too big or can be easily remedied if something screws up. Certain larger payments like my rent and credit card bills, however, I always do manually. Part of it is what I was just talking about; paying your bills manually gives you an opportunity to check on them and make sure you haven’t incurred any strange fines. Once you send the money for something you shouldn’t actually pay, it becomes a lot harder to contest it. The other part of my reasoning is that manual payments provide a helpful reality check. Keeping a constant eye on where your money is going helps it to feel realer, and by extension, helps you to keep better track of it. You should always know where your money is going and why it’s going there.

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7 months ago
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