By Leah Drewcock, CIRP, LIT, senior vice-president MNP Ltd.
The move to paperless billing is undoubtedly more cost-effective and better for the environment. Unfortunately, a growing number of consumers report forgetting about certain bills and increased difficulty managing their budget after making the switch. This is especially common among older Canadians who have a years- or decades-old habit of opening bills, mailing off payment, and manually balancing their chequebook at the kitchen table.
The good news is anyone with access to the internet and a computer, smartphone, or tablet already has all the tools to effectively navigate a paperless world. Getting started is simple with this three-step process:
Step 1: Sign up for paperless billing
Contact any companies who are still issuing you a paper bill and sign up for paperless billing. Some venders will email the statement directly to you, while others require you to log on to their site and download your statements.
Step 2: Organize your online bills and e-statements
Keep all your bills in one digital location. This could be a folder on your hard drive, in the cloud, or in an email folder. Create a filing system that’s easy to follow, easy to remember, and easy to find the information you need.
Tips for organizing bills in your inbox:
- Set up separate inbox folder for paperless bills
- Add all vendors to your safe senders list to avoid bills being flagged as spam
- Move all bills to its folder as soon as they are received, or set a rule to automatically direct emails from certain vendors to your bills folder
- Colour code your emails or set up subfolders to separate paid and unpaid bills
Step 3: Set alerts and calendar reminders
Sign up for alerts from vendors if and where available to remind you of an upcoming payment or due date. If alerts are not available, set a reminder in your calendar of all upcoming bills and their due dates.
- Online payments and INTERAC e-transfers: Set a reminder for three days before your bill payment is due. Some e-transfers and online payments can require several days for payment processing. Giving yourself this time ensures you avoid any unnecessary late penalties.
- Pre-authorized bill payments: Set a reminder for all pre-authorized payments that are automatically withdrawn from your account or billed to your credit card. Check your account the day before and the day of the withdrawal to ensure the funds are available and the payment has processed as anticipated. Try to set up as many bills as possible for pre-authorized payments. This can often be done either through your online banking or by connecting with your service provider directly.
- Payments by cheque: Set a reminder for 10 days before your bill payment is due. If you’re sending cheques in the mail, they may take between a week and 10 days to reach the vendor and for the vendor to process the payment. Remember to also check your account within that seven- to 10-day window to ensure the funds are available.
With many of your payments now being withdrawn automatically, it’s more important than ever to be proactive in projecting and tracking your spending. Create a monthly budget on paper, in a spreadsheet, or in a purpose-built app with all your monthly bills, payment amounts, and due dates. And make note of when these payments have been completed.
Some helpful tips include:
- Speak with your utility providers about equal payment plans for more predictable billing
- Schedule bill payments for one to two days after regular pay days
- Check your bank statements every month for accuracy and to prevent fraud
- Set a reminder or automatic transfer to consistently move money into a savings account.
- Incorporate aggressive debt repayments (i.e. more than the minimum) into your monthly budget
Leah Drewcock, CIRP, LIT, is a Prince George-based senior vice-president and Licensed Insolvency Trustee with MNP Ltd. To learn more about how MNP can help you manage your debt and stay on top of your finances, contact Leah at