Automatic Payments & Budget Billing

When it comes to budgeting, there is one piece of advice I would love to offer: Automate your bills as much as possible using automatic payments and budget billing. Automatic payments simply means allowing the billing service to auto bill your bank account every billing cycle rather than you having to do it manually. And budget billing is typically for your utility services. They take your normal usage and average it out over a yearly billing cycle.

Here is a look at our budget billing statement from our electric company:

Budget Billing Cycle

Depending on your utilities, right now is probably not the best time to convince you to go with budget billing. It's springtime, which means outside temperatures have been such that you may not have had to run your heating or air conditioning as much as during the cold winter or the hot summer months. And, it's lighter outside for longer periods of time, so you may not be using as much electricity, meaning your utility bills are less.

But remember a few months ago in January when your heating bill and electricity were considerably more expensive? How did paying that bill feel right after paying for Christmas? Hold onto that feeling.

We recently received our new budget billing from our electric company (photo above), and this year, it was a good one! We lowered our bill by $8 per month. That just paid for our Netflix subscription for the next year. Woohoo!

We like to use budget billing as a yearly reminder of our carbon footprint (I know what you're thinking, why do you still get paper bills? Answer: They haven't made it easy enough for me to do it yet). There have been a few years where our usage (and/or rates) have gone up and we've had to pay more on average for our utilities. It's a nice motivation for us to try to reduce our electricity, running of the furnace and water usage throughout the year. It's not something that consumes my mind every waking hour, but just a nice healthy reminder.

Set it and Forget it (Think About it Much Less)

Again, I'm a big fan of budget billing and automatic payments. They both take some effort up-front, but save worry, missed payments and budget fluctuation on the back-end.

We have the following bills on auto payment and/or budget billing (noted below):

  • Electricity (budget billing & auto payment)
  • Water/gas/sewer/trash (budget billing & auto payment)
  • Mortgage (auto payment)
  • Netflix (auto payment)
  • Web hosting (auto payment - through our business account)
  • Cell phone (auto payment)
  • Car insurance (auto payment)
  • Home insurance (auto payment)
  • Life insurance (auto payment)
  • World Vision (auto payment)
  • Retirement investments (auto payment)
  • Internet (auto payment)

These categories are great candidates for auto payment because they are set amounts each time.

Like I said before, setting up budget billing and auto payments might take a little work up front, but you'll thank me in a few months when you don't have to worry about dropping that check in the mail or remembering to pay your bills online (we have forgotten a few times in the past...eek!). Which leads me to a few final tips:

  1. You can visit your billing services website for details on setting up auto payments or enrolling in budget billing.
  2. If they don't have information online, look over your statement or bill. Oftentimes they will encourage you to sign up for these programs.
  3. If they don't have this option and your bill is a fixed payment, see if your online banking will allow for an auto payment every month. Just be sure it clears before the bill is actually due.
  4. And if your bank doesn't have online bill pay for free, it's time to switch banks.

Do you have budget billing and auto-payments set up? If so, what was the biggest hurdle? If not, why not? Leave a comment below.