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Blog: Minimizing Financial Clutter
Online Bill Paying: Make It Your New Best Friend

OK, maybe "best friend" is too strong of a phrase. But in case you haven't tried it, online bill paying is one of the greatest new productivity and organizational tools available.
I'll admit it.  I used to LOVE to write paper checks when bill-paying time came around.  While I didn't like sending hundreds of dollars a month to the electric company, I did find some sort of strange satisfaction in neatly writing out the words Baltimore Gas and Electric Company on my check, recording it in the check register, putting it in the envelope, affixing a stamp and return address label, and putting it in the mail box.  (Note to self:  Must get a hobby in 2008.)
All that changed when one of my clients, who was going to be out of the country for several months, asked me to pay her bills online while she was away.  I had used my own online banking to transfer money from one account to another and to check my balances, but had never used it for bill paying.  I was nervous.  How does this work?  Is it safe?  It sounded complicated.
It wasn't complicated.  It was so simple and convenient that I immediately switched to online bill pay for my personal bills and helped many of my clients do the same for their bills.  Here's how to get started:
Sign up
If you aren't already signed up for online banking with your bank, you will need to do so.  You can usually sign up directly through the bank's website.  If you're nervous about that, you can always go visit your friendly banker and ask him or her to sign you up.  You'll need to obtain a username and password in order to use your online banking.
Log in
Once you've received your username and password from the bank (either online or in the mail), you're ready to begin!  Simply go to your bank's website and enter your username and password in the appropriate fields on the website's home page.  Once you're logged in, you'll see all of your accounts.  Look for a tab or button that says something like "Pay Bills" and click on it.
Set up your payee list
This is the most time consuming part of online bill paying.  The good news is that you only have to set it up one time; the bank will remember your payee list for future transactions.  You'll need a copy of a bill from each of the companies (utilities, credit cards, mortgage, individuals, etc.) you want to set up in your payee list.  Simply follow the instructions on the website to add a payee.  You'll need to supply the payee's name, mailing address, and your account number with that payee, if you have one.  You can set up all of your payees at once, or you can add them as needed.
Pay your bills!
This is the cool part!  Once you've entered a payee's information in the payee list, all you have to do is fill in the amount you want to pay and the date you want the money to be delivered.  Click "Send Payments".  Done!  No 41-cent stamp to affix; the bank mails the check or makes an electronic transfer.  No chance of putting the bill in your purse and forgetting to mail it.  You can even set up recurring payments of the same amount (such as your mortgage) to be automatically sent on the same day each month.
  • Is it safe?  Yes. 
  • Is it fast?  Very.  Once you've set up your payees, it takes almost no time to pay your monthly bills. 
  • Will it save you money?  Yes!  No more stamps, envelopes, and fees for paper checks. 
  • Will you forget which bills you've scheduled to be paid?  No, because you can go online and see the bills you've scheduled, as well as all of your recent payments. 

There's no downside to online bill paying (well, unless you just LOVE to handwrite those checks…).

posted on: 12/16/2007 11:30:00 AM by Katherine Trezise
category: Finances

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Minimizing Financial Clutter

by Katherine Trezise

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About Katherine:

Katherine Trezise is president of Absolutely Organized, based in Baltimore, MD. She is president-elect of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. Katherine holds a masters degree in business administration, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®. Absolutely Organized specializes in helping people organize their homes, paperwork and financial records to make room in their lives for the things, people and activities that are most important to them.

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