$0 Balance, 0 Drama (by Alicia D. Dervin)
Earlier this month, Black Chicks with Cents created a post entitled, “The Price of Procrastination,” in which they discussed the importance of avoiding the accumulation of unnecessary interest and fees. Having been an overachiever for much of my life, I prided myself on my ability to consistently meet deadlines and due dates.
When thinking of my work ethic and my career, I firmly believed that if I could get ahead and stay ahead, I’d always be in a good place. My stress level would continue to diminish because eventually, everything that needed to get done would already have been completed.
Academically and professionally, it all seemed like a pretty good method of thinking and an even better work ethic to have. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder how I could apply the same thought process to my finances.
In “My Money Makeover,” I shared how I had to begin to look at my financial behavior from an entirely new perspective. Frivolous spending was no longer an option and saving was just as important as the income that was steadily coming in. Elated with all of the simple ways that I was accruing more money and beginning to secure my financial future, I wanted to dig deeper. Clipping coupons and adhering to a budget couldn’t be the only ways to effectively save money.
That’s when I realized that there was another avenue of money management that I hadn’t been keeping the closest eye on. I grabbed a few unopened, opened and crumpled envelopes containing recent copies of my monthly bills from my dresser and within minutes, that proverbial light bulb that usually indicates a brilliant thought, was shining brighter than ever.
Why hadn’t I considered it before? Why on Earth weren’t my bills a top priority?
New to the money management process, I found myself in a state of disappointment and embarrassment. How could I go to dinner with friends without knowing the balance on a utility bill? How could I spend time flipping through the glossy pages of my favorite publication, yet leave a credit card statement unopened on the counter?
Despite my spending cuts and saving efforts, it was clear to me that establishing my financial future still wasn’t quite the priority it should have been.
How could I fix this?
Late fees were plaguing my bills! I often put off paying certain bills not because the funds weren’t available, rather because I irrationally decided to allocate the funds elsewhere and often to something far less important. Personally averaging between six and seven bills per month, I quickly discovered that on roughly half of those statements I was paying more in late fess than the amount of the original bill. Had I paid what was due when it was originally due, the late fees and charges could have all been avoided.
If this was such a simple concept, why wasn’t I, along with millions of other Americans, doing what I knew I should’ve been doing?
Like countless others, I wasn’t thinking of the big picture. I couldn’t see past today, the present month or the things that I wanted now. Instant gratification was more important than long term stability. I hadn’t even taken into consideration the damaging effects that consistent late payments would have on my overall credit score.
Once everything reached the now beloved zero balance that should have been attained long ago, I could breathe easier. Writing down bill amounts and due dates into my weekly planner has served to be very helpful. Stashing away my bills in my dresser only further perpetuated the out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy that initially lead to accretion of endless late fees and charges. Applying my organizational and procrastination-free work related skills to my finances was a wise and overdue decision.
Why put off today what you could’ve paid last month?
Alicia D. Dervin is the author of “Sex Isn’t Enough” (Createspace) available on Amazon.com and AliciaDDervin.com. Follow her on Twitter @AliciaDDervin