Paying bills the old-fashioned way
Every bill I receive pleads with me, on several sheets of paper, to go paperless. The bills implore me, they beseech me, they promise me 50 percent off on a second entrée of equal or lesser value if I would just pay my bills online.
Save time! Save a stamp! Save the environment!
So far, I have refused.
I understand that paying bills online helps the environment and I’m all for helping the environment. In fact, several of my best friends are trees and I usually go out into the environment at least once a day. Sometimes, I even invite it inside. We have coffee, we schmooze, we promise to stay in touch.
And I understand as well that paying bills online is a considerably faster method and that I could do it while I’m showering and use all the extra time I’ve saved to invent a new vegetable or shower again in case I missed a spot.
But I have refused. I have refused because I am convinced that all these companies beseeching me to pay my bills online are doing it only because they figure that way I won’t pay close attention to how much I am actually spending — because I’ll also be tweeting and blogging and texting and trying to remember my online password at the same time.
I will be distracted and consequently will not notice that they have charged me for excessive showering and not given me the senior discount.
I am also convinced that if I pay online, one time I’m going to be busy texting and accidentally click on the little “pay now” button that will immediately have me going halfsies on the U.S. national debt and paying full price for that second entrée. It’s also possible I could send a check to the power company when I really meant to pay the podiatrist.
I want to pay my bills in a way that I can actually understand that I’m spending real money, not just digital money that is worth its weight only in digits. I want to pay my bills directly because I know it helps me with my budgeting if only I actually started to budget.
So I continue to pay by hand, booting up my fingers, downloading a pen, and writing out the checks.
If I make a mistake, like running out of space putting my account number on the memo line before getting to my signature, I tear up the check and began again. I don’t have to boot up since I’m already booted. It’s rare that the check book ever goes off-line, although, as a lefthander, it’s occasionally difficult for me to stay on the line and keep ink off my forearm.
Yes, it’s a tedious, slow-moving, old-fashioned way of doing it, but paying bills by hand helps me remember what day it is. And I can usually do it while I’m not in the shower.
Neil Offen can be reached at email@example.com.