By Tiffany Bass Bukow, Founder of MsMoney.com
It is that time of the year again – gift-giving season. Which means you might have done a lot of shopping this month. Have you ever opened your January Visa bill with trepidation? Wondering exactly how much you spent and wondering if you had the money to pay for it?
That is no way to live! Today we can show you how to happily sail through the holidays and post-holiday billing periods with peace of mind.
People often throw away their budget during the holiday season. This year, in particular, economists are predicting that consumers will buy more gifts than usual in order to show their loved ones how much they care about them. It seems that the loss from the September 11th tragedy is influencing the hearts, minds and wallets of American consumers.
When it comes to savings, American’s have one of the lowest savings rates of industrialized countries. Maybe that is because we buy excessively with our hearts, not taking into account our monetary health.
But that isn’t the only reason. We often end up buying more than we can afford because we don’t really have a clear picture of what we can afford. A recent financial survey* showed that 45% of people do not follow a budget. This isn’t surprising considering that this same survey said that 55% of parents roll over their credit card debt every month.
People don’t make financial planning a priority and for obvious reasons. At least obvious to them – they are too busy! What they don’t realize is that the average person spends only 5 hours a month managing their finances. This usually consists of bill paying and balancing their checkbook and leaves little or no time for financial planning. The average millionaire, on the other hand, spends about 20 hours a month managing their financial picture. They know it takes time and effort to create and grow wealth.
Wouldn’t it be great if the average person could free up some of those 5 hours of month spent on bill-pay and instead spend it on creating a financial plan that will help them get out of debt and start saving for the future?
Well there is just the solution at their fingertips. The Internet offers a variety of ways in which consumers can save time and money in order to improve their overall financial health. There are services that allow them to organize their financial lives in one simple to access place.
Part of the problem people have every month is keeping track of where all their bills are and when they are due. The average consumer has relationships with 3 different banks in additional to their large number of bills due.
A great way to overcome all this money confusion is to consolidate everything into one easy to access place. And I don’t just mean a filing cabinet in the home. Instead the computer allows users to see their overall financial health in a variety of ways that are helpful to saving time and putting together a financial plan.
Just think about how easy your life would be if you used such a tool. You could look at your history to help put together a budget, look at one snapshot of when all your bills are due, have your checking account automatically balanced, and have the computer pay the bills automatically (with your final approval of course.)
With these new online tools, you will no longer be alarmed when your Visa bill (or bills) arrive in the mail in January, because you can track your spending online every day of the month and see how it fits into your overall monetary picture.
Now all of a sudden what took 5 hours of time, might only take an hour. You can then use that extra 4 hours to put together a financial plan that will help you secure your financial future.
EXAMPLES OF RESOURCES THAT OFFER ONLINE BILL PAY AND ACCOUNT AGGREGATION
OnMoney.com allows consumers to aggregate their entire financial picture including bill pay, account aggregation and personal stock portfolios:
Their bill-pay area provides:
- Convenience – Store your bills online and review payment history anytime.
- Control – Track bill payments and analyze spending in greater detail.
- Organization – Download payment history to Quicken®, Microsoft Money® or Excel®.
The Bill Center allows you to quickly and easily review your billing information. From here, you can pay a bill with just a click or bring up the full details of any bill. A complete bill image is always available for your review and approval. You can also see a history of all your previous payments, review prior bill images, track the bill and even contact your biller — all from a single web site.
The Bill Center includes a reporting utility so you can view billing and payment history for your account. When you run a report, you can select the information that you want to include in the report, as well as Manage your personal finances.
Wells Fargo Bank offers a product called OneLook that brings together all of their consumers online accounts, including checking & savings, investments, credit cards, bills, travel rewards and email, in one secure page, allowing them to easily track and manage account balances, recent transactions, payment due dates, and more. One Look page is accessible only with one username and password, It’s easy, it’s safe and best of all, IT’S FREE!
For those of you on the go, Citibank allows you to check balances, pay bills, and monitor your portfolios wireless. City can also alert you via a mobile phone or email on changes to your banking, brokerage, and credit card accounts.
Bill Pay Only Services Include: