November 28, 2014

My Kind of Black Friday



A couple of years ago, Ella and I walked from our apartment to our local Texas library (it was about a mile and I'm embarrassed to say we only ever walked it about five times in three years. Driving was just easier).

As we passed the other buildings on the main square, I noticed an enormous line of cars queued up for the water building's drive-through window.

After a few seconds of feeling utterly perplexed, I realized it was the day that water bills were due and these people were coming to pay in person.

I had actually never considered for one moment paying my water bill, or any other bill for that matter, in person. I'm not sure I even realized it was a possibility until I saw a dozen cars lined up to do just that.

At this point, we pay every single one of our bills on-line. I love that I can do it at any time of day, that I never need a stamp, and that I know exactly when it's going to arrive (plus I get an email confirmation that it's been sent so if for some reason it didn't go through, which has never happened, I'd have PROOF that I'd paid it, rather than a lame "well, I promise I mailed it - maybe the postman lost it?" response).

We have as many of our bills as possible get paid automatically through our credit card so we can get points for them (our cell phone bills, Internet service, etc), and then the rest I pay through our checking account on Capital One 360 (which we've been using for the last eight or so years, since it was ING Direct).

It's kind of sad how delighted I am on a monthly basis that I can just log into my account, go to the Bill Pay center and enter in all the totals for my water bill or our rent check, and push send. No checks to sign, no account numbers to look up and write at the top of a check, and now rummaging around for a stamp and having to walk it out to the mailbox (you probably now understand why I am very bad at thank-you notes).

Plus, it means we don't end up paying late fees (and on the very rare occasion that I let something fall through the cracks and we do get charged a late fee? I always call and get it reversed. I've never had a late fee charge not get canceled if I call about it. Ten minutes on the phone while I look at Pinterest and then get my $25 back? Not a bad way to start the morning).

Of course, now that we're in London, it's even more vital that all our bills can be paid online since I don't have the slightest clue how to use the mail system here. I don't even know where a mail box is.


Pretty much the only good thing about a late fee would be that it's charged in dollars and not pounds.

The irony of writing about saving money (one of my top-five favorite topics of all time) on Black Friday when the Internet is going nuts with sales and "must-buys" doesn't escape me.

But spending wads of cash makes me uncomfortable even at the best of times (and right after four months of living abroad and also having a husband in school is not exactly the best of times financially). Pretty much the only sale that has appealed at all to me is Capital One 360's Black Friday deals where you get $100 for opening a free savings or checking account. It's not like those sales where you're "saving" money by spending more. It's just getting a bonus $100 that you don't even have to stand in line at midnight to get.

Of course, since I've had an account there for nearly a decade, I'm not even eligible (although you're always eligible for a referral bonus if a friend signs up for a new account and they've doubled the amount you get this weekend) so. . . . no Black Friday shopping for me.

Also, we didn't have any pie last night after our tiny Thanksgiving meal at home, so I'm not sure you're even allowed to do Black Friday shopping if you haven't eaten at least one slice of pie. I think that's written in the Mayflower Compact.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

6 comments:

  1. Mail boxes are on the streets, at very regular intervals. Can't miss them, they are bright red. Just thought I'd help you out there. :-)

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  2. I absolutely love your sponsored posts because I know they're real and honest and they're actually things that you use. I just really appreciate the honesty.

    Spending money also makes me a little twitchy. Years of school and 5 kids and some killer student loans (someday they'll be gone) will do that to a girl!!

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    Replies
    1. Oh, THANK YOU! I so appreciate it.

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  3. Love Capital One 360 -- we joined back when it was ING Direct, also, but have no complaints about the change (other than sometimes accidentally calling it ING... haha). Jacob's brother recommended them to us not long after we were married. My favorite thing is that we can open up a new account any time -- we have loads of accounts, one for saving up the car insurance, one for saving up the emergency fund, one for each of the kids... It's ridiculously easy to open an account, once you already have one, and it means we don't accidentally spend money we need for one thing on something else. Maybe I can convince a relative to open an account today! :D

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  4. I hope this doesn't come across as critical, but something you discussed early in this post caught my attention, so I wanted to mention it here. You may be aware that paying bills in person tends to be something that is disproportionately done by people of low socioeconomic status. There are a lot of complex factors that contribute to this, such as possibly not being able to set up a bank account and thus having to pay in cash; not having reliable, private internet access to pay bills; and/or having to wait until the payment due date (or later) to have enough money to pay the bill and thus not being able to wait a day or two for the payment to process. So I found it a bit jarring when you transitioned from an anecdote about once not having known that in-person bill-paying could be done directly to a discussion of a Black Friday special offered by a bank for people who obviously do not face any of the challenges that might lead to paying bills in person. Again, this isn't intended as a judgment or criticism, but it was striking enough to me that I wanted to raise it for you in case you might not have realized the way those contrasting experiences might come across to a reader. I'm glad you've found a financial setup that works for you - just concerned that parts of this post may not portray others in different situations in the most sensitive light.

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    Replies
    1. Jess, I've been thinking about your comment all evening; there's so much to think about on this topic. I really appreciate your kind and thoughtful take on this and for sharing it nicely. I've actually thought about this topic quite a bit, although obviously I didn't think about it very well in terms of this post, because I worked at a job in Texas for a few years where I did payroll and some of the people came to pick up their checks in person because they didn't have bank accounts for direct deposit and would usually show up with not even enough gas to get home without cashing their check first. Your comment made me wonder more about how the banking system could be more accessible to low-income families and individuals (since there are a lot of free checking accounts available out there, is it lack of information that's the problem? Does setting up an account seem too daunting or have too many unknown variables?).

      Anyway, thanks for helping me think about these tricky issues a little more.

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