Speaking about forgetting, I actually started this in January, intending to finish it after returning from a cruise. Three months later…
On a recent cruise, I overheard a conversation where people were discussing the fact that they had forgotten to pay some bills or forgot to pay their estimated taxes, etc. (I wasn’t eavesdropping, BTW.) They didn’t have their bank routing info and were stressing about what to do. So…here are some tips, and you don’t need to be a techno geek to do any of this.
Mobile Banking – Yes, it’s scary, but I’ve been doing this for at least 10 years with no problems. Just make sure you have a strong password, and don’t write it down and carry it with you. More about password management to follow. With mobile banking, I can pay my bills from anywhere in the world, as long as I have internet access. Another benefit: I can deposit checks from home using my phone, saving me time and hassle. I can also transfer money between my checking and money market accounts as needed. As a precaution, do check your account regularly to make sure there is no suspicious activity.
Autopay – There are a couple of ways to do this. One is through your bank account. I have all credit card payments automatically withdrawn from my checking account, and have set up an automated payment schedule for real estate tax payments and other recurring charges.
For recurring charges that may change slightly from month to month (like utility payments), I have them charged directly to a credit card. Tip: Set aside one credit card for all recurring charges, and leave it at home. That way, you won’t have to scurry around to update the information with every vendor if a card is lost.
Estimated Tax Payments – You can pay these by credit card if you don’t have your bank routing information. For larger payments, however, check out EFTPS on the IRS website. You can save your banking information and schedule payments up to a year in advance. Check your state’s revenue department website to see what options are available there as well.
Credit Cards – You probably know to notify your credit card company if you’re traveling out of the country. You can also request notifications from them for any charges that are over a specified dollar amount, or for any charge made without a card present. This means that when you or your spouse buys something on line in the other room, you’ll get a notice a couple of minutes later, so don’t charge that surprise birthday gift! Remember to go online and check your accounts regularly to verify that all charges are legitimate.
Mail Delivery – It’s easy to have your mail held while you’re traveling, you can do this online if you wish. You can also sign up for Informed Delivery with the Post Office, and receive an email each day with photocopies of the letters and packages (most of them, anyway) in your mail that day. If you see something that looks like it needs attention, you can call the sender. Even when we’re home, I can decide whether or not it’s worth the 200 foot trek to the mailbox, especially when the temps are hovering near zero. TIP: Have invoices emailed rather than snail-mailed to reduce the volume of mail you receive.
What’s Happening at Home? Ever had a leak while you’re traveling? You’d be surprised how much damage can occur in an hour, as we know from experience. How about a furnace going out? Or pipes freezing (especially for us Minnesotans)? Expensive!! There are are several home automation programs you can use to monitor these things. Control4 has been our program of choice for many years. With a smartphone app, we can check, or change, the temperature in our house (or in our greenhouse), turn the lights on and off, turn the water on and off, schedule sprinklers, turn on the driveway heat (for snowy Minnesota). Tip: Turn off the water when you leave home for extended periods of time.