I’m a big fan of automatic payments. Mortgage, Insurance, Car Payments, Utilities… I’ve had everything possible on auto-pay for years. I prefer to make the payments through my bank’s bill pay, rather than have the company I’m paying pulling money through my account; I feel a little more in control that way. I budget out the entire year in Excel, and have an account specifically for my expenses. I’m not great about sitting down and paying bills every month, so having everything on auto-pay means I’ll never miss a payment or a due date. Overall it’s been a great system.
Except when I fail.
This year has been the year of auto-payment fails for me. I still haven’t missed a payment, or been late on anything. But, by not paying enough attention, I’ve managed to over pay on a couple of occasions. The first came after I paid off my student loan. In that situation, Sallie Mae was actually taking money out of my account, instead of my bank initiating the payment. I assumed that when the loan was paid off, the auto-pay would automatically be turned off. I assumed wrong; The next monthly payment came out like clock-work. It took a month for them to send me a check. And then, since the loan was technically in my Dad’s name (He took out a Parent Plus Loan, with the agreement that I’d be the one making the payments), the refund check was made out to him. It took me months to remember to get the check to him. Sigh!
The second time happened last week. I thought I was staying on top of everything with selling the house. We were scheduled to close on May 15th, but with all of the craziness that had happened up until that point, I was skeptical that the closing would actually happen on that date. I waited until the afternoon of the 15th, after closing, to transfer all the utilities and turn off my auto-pay settings. I was ahead on my gas and electric bills, so I’d been setting my account to skip months when I remembered, to use up some of my credit. The idea was that I would save myself some money in the months leading up to closing, and have less of a credit coming to me once I moved.
I was a little shocked last week when I looked at my expenses account and saw it was $120 short of what I thought it should be. Turns out, I had the gas bill set on several months delay, instead of actually being turned off. The payment kicked back on in June. As luck would have it, they’re the only company I was still waiting for a refund from of the $100+ credit I had on my account. And now I’ve gone and sent them another $120.
It isn’t the end of the world: I keep a cushion in my expenses account, just in case. Plus I have an emergency fund, if something were to happen where I really needed that money. I’m a little disappointed in myself for not being more cautious with where my money is going. Just because I have the extra cash, doesn’t mean I should be “loaning” it out needlessly to utility/student loan companies. But, it isn’t the end of the world. That money will eventually make its way back into my budget. And hopefully I’ll learn a lesson here, and keep a better eye on my auto-pays!
– Cindy W.