Bill Paying on the Road
Before you take off for an extended time in an RV you have got to get your financial act together. Get organized, whatever that means to you.
For us it meant putting all of our recurring bills on automatic pay. It takes time to establish these automatic pay arrangements. Do not wait until the last minute to set them up. I would advise doing this a year or so in advance. Some auto pays can be accomplished by having the payment taken out of a credit card account others require the automatic payment to come from a checking account. Others refuse to establish automatic pay arrangements preferring to go online and make payments. Whatever method you choose make sure that you can do it easily on the road.
We went the automatic pay route to eliminate writing checks and the hassle associated with writing them and keeping the checkbook balanced. Writing checks and or going online to pay bills takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.
We were making our lives simpler and putting our recurring billon on automatic pay went a LONG way toward achieving that goal.
Joyce and I located a bank (in our case it was a credit union) that provided NO COST checking accounts. No cost was our first criteria. The second was a system to get detailed account information over the phone 24-hours a day via an automatic system. That was back in 2000 today everything is done over the internet. Of course can also get account information using the www and over the phone. Once we had located the financial institution that met these criteria we established a savings account and two checking accounts with them. One checking account was for Automatic Payments and the Debit Card. We only use the debit card to get cash back, usually from WalMart. We do NOT write any checks out of that account. Everything that happens in that account is automatic. My retirement check is automatically deposited into that account. All of our PAYMENTS are paid out of that account. Our "payments" consist of utility bills for our stick & brick house plus homeowners insurance and semiannual automobile and motorhome insurance policies.
We use a Citi Bank Credit Card for virtually EVERYTHING. The card gives 2% back on everything plus 5% on items like groceries and gasoline. The monthly balance is automatically drafted from that checking account. We never worry about making the payment and we never pay any interest. Each month the credit card company sends me an e-mail with the amount that will be drafted from my account. I generally get online and look at my City Bank expenditures to make sure everything is legitimate. I have never found a mistake and have stopped looking for minute errors. I am more interested in assuring that someone other that us has not charged anything to our account. So far this has not happened. If it does I will be on top of it before the automatic payment is deducted.
Note that we are using the Citi Bank Credit Card instead of checks or cash for the vast majority of financial transactions. Writing a check is the option of last resort. Using the Credit Card is our first choice, by doing this we always get a paper receipt that I use to keep track of our expenses (I keep a spreadsheet of daily expenses). The Credit Card bill is automatically drafted from our checking account on the 4th of each month. Citi Bank sends me an e-mail on the 15th of each month notifying me of the amount that is going to be drafted from our checking account on the 4th of the next month. Joyce and I can look at that amount and tell if it is in the ballpark. We get on the www and look though individual credit card transactions to verify that everything is in order. Other than that the whole process is on automatic. We are NEVER late with a payment. It works like clockwork with absolutely no angst on our part.
The second checking account is for the VERY FEW checks we do write. We are down to only writing one or two checks a month and that is the way we like it.
I keep the checking accounts balanced by obtaining the information over the phone or www. Remember we chose our banking institution because it had a system allowing us to check account information over the phone or www 24-hours a day.
Most people who hit the road for an extended period of time will have a cell phone and plan that will allow them to make "free" calls on weekends and after 9PM. That is when we balance our check book, if we are using the phone ---- during the free hours. The availability of "hot spots" or open wifi connection has increased to the point that we can generally get online at any time of day almost anywhere.
Other people manage finances differently. Other ways will work equally as well. You have to decide how much time you want to spend playing with bills. As you can see I want to spend MINIMUM time.
One last word of advice,------ you should set up whatever system you are going to use LONG before you head out on your big trip. Practice doing whatever you are going to do without visiting your financial institute. You MUST have a system where you can comfortably do all your banking without visiting your financial institute. You can't leave on that "big-trip" if you can't perform all your banking and bill paying activities without visiting the bank.
If you decide to do your banking via the internet practice doing you banking via the system you are going to use to connect to the internet when you are on the road. What I am trying to get you to do is REALIZE that you are NOT going to be connected to that high-speed internet connection you are currently using at work or at home. On the road you are going to be connecting via cell phone or possibly a wifi connection from a hot spot available at the campground or a hot-spot. High speed connectivity 24-7 will NOT be one of the things you have available on the road, get used to living without it.
And I repeat myself, set up the system you are going to use and start using that system long before you hit the road. And lastly,----- make certain that whatever you decide on can be accomplished without ever visiting your bank.
Now--------------- go have fun.