Living the Frugal Life: One Year Later

When I started polluting the Internet from this corner of my blog, Mommy Wants Vodka, I was facing the inevitability of not only getting a divorce, but also learning to manage my own money – a concept as daunting as trying to solve for 0 using the microwave. In all my years of being an “adult” (quotes intentional), I’d never been in charge of money.

See, while the idea of “managing money” makes my skin crawl and my guts go gooey, it was a practical matter in my marriage. Dave managed the bills while I spent my time cleaning the toilets, vacuuming my life away, and polluting the Internet, one obnoxious sentence after another. Really, it was an equal division of labor.

But when one side of that labor divider is taken away from the equation, well, learning how to manage money was (and remains) something of a work in progress.

While I’ve been absurdly thankful for all of your suggestions and support, I’ve still struggled, in the same way that anyone who’s survived a divorce struggles: suddenly you’re responsible for things you’d never even thought about before. In the process, I’ve learned a number of things about myself along the way (and not just how to work the microwave, which, I’ll admit, was a daunting task).

Namely, paying bills.

While freelance writing often left me scrambling for change in the couch when rent came due, I did always manage to make it one way or another (and, I should add, without resorting to the “encounters” section of Craig’s List). I began to look, in earnest for a jobby-job. Y’know, the type that offers the same amount of money every week and gives you fancy stuffs like “health insurance.”

I was lucky to find one.

Which makes it even more confusion that paying my bills would become such a thorn in my side. Without money coming in, that makes total sense. With the addition of money, the whole thing sounded a lot easier. Notice I said, “sounded,” because it wasn’t. Easier, I mean. In fact, it began to fall to the wayside, especially dealing with an intense job, such as the job I’d found.

Rather than focus upon paying my bills like I should have, I’d instead sleep, or stare at the wall blankly, trying to relax from a stressful day, which, I’ll be honest, was every day. But I loved my job and I loved my sleep and I managed… mostly.

Until, of course, the bills began to pile up. I’d find ways and excuses to put them off; to ignore them until I got a phone call reminding me that I was, indeed, putting aforementioned bills off.

I couldn’t understand it. I had the money. I had the ability to read. Hell, I could even write! So what was my major malfunction?

Turns out, paying bills was one of those things that left my mind entirely blank, panicking and wishing I had a corner to crawl into. I cannot possibly explain why this happened: I’d never been attacked by a roaming bill, I’d never been assaulted by a bill, I even knew how to pay them. So WHAT was my problem with paying bills?

Short answer: I don’t know. Paying bills makes me panic.

Which is a pretty pathetic phobia, if’n you ask me, but there you have it. I’ve managed to live off a budget (more or less), I’ve found ways to cut corners, and I’ve even stopped eating out, which has done tremendous things for my waistline, by the by. I’ve learned tricks for cleaning and for having fun without breaking the bank. And still – bill paying leaves me feeling like a pathetic excuse for an adult (what else is new?).

My tentative plan is to use Google Calendars to keep track of when bills are due, set myself reminders a few days prior, and make sure that every bill that CAN be automatically paid is paid through the bank.

I’m hoping this works. I can’t even imagine what my therapist would say about my bill paying phobia.

How do you manage paying bills in a timely manner, Pranksters? Any tips and tricks for me?


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16 thoughts on “Living the Frugal Life: One Year Later

  1. What I’ve done for the past five years is carry a calendar with me in my briefcase. The amounts for everything are written on the date due so I have a clear picture of what needs to be taken care of when.

    I also write the amount I’m getting paid on the pay date of every week. Using this, I can not only calculate how much I need each week in advance, I can also do some juggling around if need be, holding back more from one week to cover the next week to even things out.

    So far, it’s worked. I also pretty much pay all my bills online.

  2. If you figure it out, let me know. Honestly, I am right there with you. If it wasnt for DH telling me it was time, I would never get anything paid. I signed up for every automatic payment I could. He has to take care of the rest issus.*sigh*

  3. If you pay your bills online through your bank…you can set up regular payments for regular stuff like utilities, phone, rent, car payment…some even have ebills.

    Set a calendar alert on payday – make it something different from your regular stuff so it’ll remind you to pay your bills.

    don’t panic :)

  4. I, too am as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to money. Hubby, however, is awesome. Here’s what he does:
    It’s beyond online bill pay. First, you have two bank accounts. One for bills ONLY and one for extra stuff. Figure out how much each bill will be each month, round up, add together and direct deposit that much into one account (your employer has forms and such). The rest of your check goes into the other account for groceries and gas, etc.
    Go to each company you pay a bill to and tell them they can take out up to x amount of dollars from this account each month to pay your bill. And they will. Without you doing anything. You just have to set it up once and then never worry about it again. One thing you have to make sure of us timing, have some come out on the muddle of the month then the rest at the end do youre not over drafting. It seems complicated, but since its only once, it’s amazing not to have to sit down every month and pay bills. Or forget to.

  5. I’m the opposite, I think. I HATE automatic withdrawals, because I will always forget when they are coming out. The few times I’ve had them, I’ve gone into overdraft just from sheer stupidity. I’ve always managed my own money; the husband and I didn’t open a joint account until we bought a house and even now, we just each send money to the joint account to cover our joint bills. The way I remember is to have a list of every bill I pay, then each time I get paid, I go through the list and make sure I pay anything that is due before my next pay day. Seems to work for me!

  6. I use quicken, and have it set up to “remind” me around the time I usually *get* the bill, not when it’s due, so I can always stay on top of things.

  7. Two thoughts one; I went through a period were I was depressed and although there was money in the bank I would procrastinate bill paying. Not assuming that’s your issue but perhaps an avenue to explore?

    Secondly to facilitate bill-paying; I get paid twice a month so I have divided up my bills so they get paid via one of those paychecks. Where necessary I’ve called & had the payment date changed for a bill or two to make it coincide with my preferred payment date. Also – for bills that are once a year or twice a year payments like car/home insurance and property taxes; I have a savings account that I pay into every month. Then I can pull that out for the semi-regular bills and not be left surprised by where to get the money for taxes or insurance.

    Good luck, you’ve come so far!

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