Living without the internet for a week (so far) really brings some things into perspective. This post is part 3 of a 5 post series about Internet Luxuries You're Taking for Granted. Read Part 1, Part 2
The 15th of the month is rapidly approaching and a good portion of my bills are outstanding at the moment, all due on that date. We all have bills and they need to be paid. I figured today would be a great day — day off from work, wife at work, baby in daycare — to finish paying off those pesky, monthly debts. Except I may have overlooked one detail: No internet! I'm an absolute control freak when it comes to my money; every cent needs to be accounted for, every transaction reviewed daily, and monthly reconciliations completed to balance the "books." That's the main reason I don't believe in automatic bill pay, a feature offered by every single banking institution for years now. But I went to college for finance, and I enjoy crunching the numbers. The simple fact that I haven't been able to obtain my balances online has been eating away at me slowly for the last week and a half. Last Thursday I stopped by an ATM just to check my checking account balance, I called Fidelity Investments (yes, called their 1-800 phone number) to review gains or loses in my investment accounts, and had to call the credit card company to check the outstanding balance and setup a payment for which they gladly added a $20 "convenience charge."
"I'd give my left nut for even an abacus right now."
When I worked in the service department for Fidelity Investments, I absolutely despised any individuals who would call for their balances everyday. I thought they were lazy, technologically inept, or just set out to make my life miserable; now, I'm one of them. Funny how the tables turn. The majority of my bills come through as an email (usually just a reminder that it's time to pay), but one or two still come as a paper, snail-mail version.
Strategy for Success
The snail mail bills were easy since they provided some form of a contact phone number that I was able to use to first see if I could do a payment over the phone. If this option was unavailable I would have to be connected to the service department to get their mailing address. Luckily that didn't happen in any case. Next, I used the "check e-mail once a day" loophole in the challenge rules to gather as much information from the monthly e-mails as possible. Most had phone numbers in the footer of the e-mail; two didn't. I contemplated just skipping those two bills this month and having Future Don deal with the problems. But after a quick reevaluation of that plan, I realized that would be cheating — this is a challenge for shit's sake.
I played the only logical card this side of the 1990s: I called 411! 1-800-FREE-411 specifically. Why pay $1 for anything else? Plus they also offer free horoscopes. SCORE! Both listings were found in a few minutes after a few "commercial breaks."
After quite a few phone calls and conversations with customer service reps due to the fact I don't know each company's account number off the top of my head, all bills have been paid. What normally is a simple task that would take minutes to accomplish online took me well over an hour and produced a headache that felt like someone is trying to punch my skull apart.