Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is Wrong With Me???

My careful, anal money-tracking habits seem to be failing me! I've been noticing lately that I've had to enter more balance adjustments than usual to my cash account-- $38 worth in November-- and now I'm obviously spacing out when I'm doing my online payments!
The other day I got my credit card bill and was surprised to see a late charge applied. I had noted in Quicken that I'd made the payment, but when I checked my Chase account, there was no sign of any payment. Just now I was looking at my latest Verizon phone bill. "Wow," I thought, "I must have been chatty this month, how on earth did I run up a $52.75 local phone bill?" Well, turns out I forgot to pay last month's balance of $26.36 and was nailed with a $12 late fee!

Okay, time to slow down and focus... and remember to make the payments on the Chase website BEFORE I enter them in Quicken! As for the cash expenses, I don't know what I'm forgetting there-- I think I've been buying breakfast and lunch less often and therefore less in the habit of recording those transactions every single day, so perhaps that is what I'm forgetting... other than that, I'm stumped!

23 comments:

Susy said...

It's so easy to do with on-line payments. This is why I try to set up everything I can to automatically be billed to my credit card and my Chase account is autmatically paid every month (you should set that up - such peace of mind).

Anonymous said...

the question is why not automatic?

IDIOT.

Mr. ToughMoneyLove said...

You need to link Quicken and your bank accounts so that Quicken initiates the payment by your bank in accordance with a predefined schedule. You are making it way too hard.

Kristen said...

Instead of double-entry, you can download your transactions from the Chase site to Quicken. You can do an auto-download from the site, just follow the links. Use a QIF file.

I'd also recommend setting up as many bills as possible with auto-payments.

stephanie said...

I don't auto-pay may cell phone bill simply because the cell phone company has added unnecessary extra charges to our bill so many time. It is easier to go to the store and complain, so they wipe them off your bill before you pay, than to either call customer service (good luck there) or pay the bill and then try to get a credit for it later. I would definitely agree with using auto-pay for most other bills, though.

I agree with Kristen that it might be easier to download transaction data from your banks and credit cards to avoid errors.

And now for what I actually clicked on "comments" to say! I never carry cash, I use credit and debit for everything I possibly can. This works for me because I treat it as if I were paying cash (and know the limits of what I can afford), and I don't have to worry about writing down or keeping track of cash transactions. I would be having a much harder time keeping track of cash transactions than you are, I am certain of that!

frugal zeitgeist said...

Auto-pay is a beautiful thing. I also put everything on credit cards, and it makes keeping track of my spending a breeze.

SandyVoice said...

Because of past financial difficulties, I need to know exactly whaat's happening with my money, so I write checks. It gives me more control than do automatic payments. I would pay in cash if I could figure out how to do it conveniently. I have never forgotten to send a payment. Might not work for anyone else, but it's the best for me.

But, Madame X, you also need to remember that you haven't had the easiest year, what with your Dad's health issues, dealing with his finances, and trying not to give up your own life. Cut yourself a break -- it was only $38. Get a couple of good night's sleep, and you'll be more present.

Liz said...

Be sure to call and beg for mercy on the late fees. If you've been a customer for a while with an otherwise good record, they might waive it as a one-time courtesy. I've had good luck with Chase, their customer service is excellent. Verizon...not so much, but worth a shot!

Ishtar said...

That's a good point, Liz. It's something most of us forget about.

But I'm sorry to hear about these, Madame X.

Anonymous said...

I usually automate my payments on my bank account online upon receiving my monthly statements. That way in case they happen to slip my mind I would still be on time. The other good thing is once I log onto my bank account I can be better able to gauge my cash flow and make sure I have enough money on there for all the pending payments.

But slipping sometimes, it happens to the best of us. Brush it off and chalk it to a lesson learnt if you can't get those fees backed off.

Madame X said...

I had always thought my version of Quicken and my bank weren't compatible for transmitting the payments, but I'm going to look into it again. Chase seems to charge a $9.95 per month fee for this, though-- if they won't waive it, I'm sticking with my current method!

Gord said...

I run most things through the credit card and get the airmiles. The bigger stuff is automatically paid from my checking account. To maximize earned interest, I keep most of the money in a high interest savings. Then I let my computer (Mac) send me email alerts of the due dates and I transfer the money into checking just in time. But SandyVoice is right; it's $38 and you've been busy. Balance and perspective....

Kristen said...

Madame X, they do still charge $9.95/mo if you do the auto-download, but you can manually download it from the Chase site for free, then import it in Quicken. I DEFINITELY recommend you do at least that; it's so easy and it will save you time.

I do that for my (small) Chase checking account, which I actually only keep open so I can write a real check if I have to or if I need some cash quickly. I switched the rest of my money to ING Direct, because I get interest on my checking account no matter what the balance (1.75% right now), and there are no fees for auto-downloading into Quicken. I can still write real checks on that account, but I have to do it online and ING then mails it for free to whomever I want. But it's not as instant as a physical checkbook. Funny, though, since I switched earlier this year, I've only written 5 checks from ING, and none from Chase!

Miss M said...

I've been the same way! I forgot to pay the phone bill, which was only a $3 late charge. I also almost bounced the same check twice this month, the mortgage! I transferred money from savings to cover the check, but forgot about an automatic debit so the next day I had to transfer more money. I'm not a huge fan of automatic payments, one you might accidentally overdraw your account and two, you're not keeping a close eye on your bills. I often notice weird charges that have to be dealt with. I prefer more hands-on finances.

J Scott said...

I had the same problem with my Chase credit card last month; I noted in Quicken that I paid online, but they realized I hadn't about 2 weeks later (and I haven't missed a credit card payment in my life).

When I went back in to make the payment, I noted that the Chase payment interface has changed, and they now require you to check an "I agree" box towards the end of the process. If you don't check the box, you get an error message, but the error screen looks a lot like the "successful payment" screen, making it seem like you just paid, but in actuality, you haven't.

Perhaps you had the same problem?

And if both of us had it, it's likely that many others did as well, so I wouldn't be surprised if Chase is amenable to refunding you any late fees.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica...OMG i learning to do better budgeting b4 2009. I've seen my money go to clebrating many b-days, less breakfast& lunch buying, and almost a late fee. Though this is only for the months of October & November so far.

Anonymous said...

I enter the payments into quicken, but leave the type of transaction (Transfer, debit, deposit) blank until I actually *make* the transaction. so the cash is budgeted, but i know that it hasn't been "done" yet.

bugbear said...

The weak link is probably that you are not recording your expenses consistently as you make them.

You might try what I do: I make a 'receipt" for any purchase I do that doesn't give me its own paper receipt.

I just take a piece of paper and make one up: "$5.42 Cash cafe"
and slip it in my wallet.

Or, if I am doing online banking at work (which I sometimes do) I make up a receipt for it.

Then all the receipts go in a flower pot by my computer. Every once in a while (at least once a week) I enter them into my spreadsheet. Of course, you could enter it into Excel.

I find that automated data links to my checking account, whatever, are not that useful. It's much better to rely on myself to record and enter the data, then balance the account manually once I get my statements.

There has been very little "transaction drop" since I started this system of making paper "chits" or receipts for my transactions 6 months ago and entering them manually to my financial program. Give it a try.

Anonymous said...

People, Quicken is so 1990s, check out Mint.com! I love it. I'm obsessed. I look at my spending graph daily because it is online and I can access from anywhere secure. That might not help with this particular issue (automatic payments will do that), but Mint.com is so much cleaner and easy to use than Quicken for basic budget tracking.

bugbear said...

After rereading the OP, I thought I might make the following suggestion.

Set up an automated alert on Google Calendar so that you send yourself an email reminder on the day after the card's billing cycle ends.

Also,
If you use one credit card for your ongoing payments, it is very reliable to set up an automatic payment from your checking account (do this on your bank website, not the credit card's) for the largest minimum payment you could reasonably expect. If you charge $2000 per month, and Chase has 5% of the balance as a minimum payment, I would set it at the minimum payment for double what I normally spend: 4000 in spending, $200 minimum payment. Schedule it to go out like 3 days after your billing cycle ends. That way you know you always will have at least sent in the minimum, even if you totally space out for a few months.

Then do an additional payment to make up the difference, or do what I do: pay the $200 automatically, then pay the total amount of my charges for the month, so that I have overpaid by $200. You will never ever get hit with a finance charge if you do that!

bugbear said...

I would also say that if your goal is to have a tight rein on your spending so you can meet various financial goals, software that puts your *budget* first and foremost --as opposed to a check register-- is paramount in importance. I use a custom Excel spreadsheet for this, but YNAB (You Need a Budget) does this brilliantly. I would highly recommend trying it. It is not just software, it has an entire budgeting and cash management philosophy behind it that very effectively destresses your finances. In the end, I have found that having active control of my budget is the most important fundamental thing about my finances, besides, of course, earning money.

Amy K. said...

We've had the same problem (recorded in Quicken, didn't actually pay the bill) twice in the past month. I blame it on too much going on. We've agreed to put the tracking number in Quicken from now on, making it a) easier to get a refund if we really DID schedule the payment and their system hiccuped, and b) easier to see quickly that Yes, we DID finish the entry before we move on to the next bill.

pennyseeds.com said...

I don't like automatic withdrawls just in case the money isn't there. Even though it always is.

I get e-mail reminders for all of my bills to remind me to pay them, and that's enough to get me to go to the website, and perform the tedious tasks of loging in, and clicking 'pay now'.