I am cleaning up our office space at home, getting ready to turn it into the baby's room. In the process I came across our old tax records, receipts and bills, and I was surprised to see a huge pile of unopened bank statements, bills, and other mail.

I took a closer look and most of these unopened envelopes are from 2006, when we were having significant financial difficulties. I remember the sinking feeling I had every time I went to the mail and received yet another bill I couldn't pay. I would often just file it in the filing cabinet, knowing I owed money, but feeling like I could never catch up. Mr W is no better, he even today frequently leaves mail unread (which is fine as long as it is not a bill, so now I open all these!).

The bills did catch up to us though. Of course, don't they always? I was fortunate and had a few calls from bill collectors and late statements from utility companies. Mr W was not so fortunate, and not keeping good track of his finances led to a few black marks on his credit report from an insurance company, and a cell phone company. We both also suffered from raised interest rates on credit cards because we missed payment deadlines.

It is one thing to know you can't pay a bill, but we went to the extreme and practiced the fine art of burying our head in the sand, rather than confronting our financial problems head on. So this is my tip- at least open your mail if you are in debt. Then you might have a fighting chance. Try negotiating extended deadlines with a credit card company or utility bill. Try to make minimum payments on time on as many bills as you possibly can- better yet set up automatic payments so you never miss a payment date.

Getting back on track for us was a combination of: 1) opening the mail, 2) creating a budget, and 3) tracking all payments in Excel so I knew when they were due. I have since revised my payment strategy so that each month I know what bills must be paid on the 1st and what bills must be paid on the 15th. These bills get paid as soon as we get paid, and then it never slips my mind, and the money is always there for us.

Trust me the "burying head in sand" technique is only a short term solution :)

3 Comments:

  1. Mrs. Micah said...
    And also, random mail should be opened unless you know it's junk. We just got a letter from a collections agency for something which we paid, but we had to straighten out. Wasn't too much of a hassle, but still...it was good we opened it instead of tossing it.
    Debt Dieter said...
    I couldn't agree more! I checked my bank statements properly once I started trying to eliminate my debt & found I had fraudulent charges on my debit card that had been stolen. Recovered $50!
    GIV said...
    i actually found a cheque for around $200 made out to my then girlfriend from her insurance company when I was cleaning out old mail a few weeks ago.

    So it definitely pays.

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