WORST. THING. YOU. COULD. DO.
In this entry, I'm going to give you two kinds of scenarios that I've personally dealt with:
1. Getting charged a fee for something that I forgot that I was enrolled in (my fault)
2. Having magical "accidental" charges that appeared from out of nowhere on my credit card (not my fault)
There are so many fees that you could miss that shouldn't have happened in the first place. And right there my little hamsters, is how you'll save more money without compromising your much needed daily morning coffee from the overrated Starbucks. (By the way, the Vietnamese in me says go get a Vietnamese iced coffee for half the price and double the energy)
GO THROUGH YOUR CREDIT CARD BILL & BANK STATEMENTS LINE BY LINE
When Suze Orman instructed me to do this in her book, I racked up my courage to do it.
And she was right. I had a big fat $40 charge on my credit card.
It was for for what was called credit card protection, or something to effect. The previous month it was slightly less than that, maybe around $30-something. And the month before THAT a little something less. I scoured through my past statements and found that this charge had been growing monthly.
(Keep in mind, I've never had a late payment as much as I was in debt. That was probably the most responsible thing Past Isabelle kept up with, but if it weren't for automated payments, this last sentence would cease to exist.)
I was confused. I didn't understand what these charges were exactly for and why I had them so I called up Citi Cards to inquire about them. Apparently, I had enrolled myself in this credit cart protection and the reason why I was getting charged more and more was because it was based on how much my debt was. And my debt was growing because I kept spending, spending, spending.
But wait a minute. I don't remember enrolling in something like this?!
And then it clicked. I did enroll in something like that. But it was such a distant memory.
You know how when you're shopping at let's say, Von's or your local grocery store, and you're at the conveyor belt with your items because you're finaaaally done with the shopping list. The cashier is ringing you up and when they're finished ringing up your pack of Lunchables, they ask if you would like to donate to a children's charity or to buy a reusable bag for future supermarket trips.
That's an upsell. They're trying to get you to add-on to your purchase.
I don't know about you guys, but I have plenty of reusable grocery bags. Problem is, I bring my groceries in and I leave the bags at home and never back to the car and thus, I never have them when I need them at the supermarket. Lame.
Well, that is the perfect analogy for my Citi card situation.
I was on the phone with Citi Cards in regards to a different issue and after the rep had resolved it, she asked if I wanted to enroll in the credit card protection which was at no charge to me for the first something months.
Me: Nooo...it's okay, I don't think I'll need it, thanks anyways."
Citi Cards Lady: "But Miss, something something something about PROTECTION blah blah blah ID THEFT something something something FRAUD something something something FREE CREDIT SCORE."
Me: "Yeeeeah...I don't really want to commit to anything though."
Very-Persistent-Citi-Cards-Lady: "Something something something you can cancel at anytime for no charge something something TO JUST BENEFIT YOU something something something JUST TO TRY OUT TO SEE IF YOU LIKE IT."
Me-With-White-Flag: "Okay, okay, fine. Sign me up. But I'll probably cancel it right after!"
Will-Probably-Get-Promoted-Next Week-Citi-Cards-Lady:"Thanks fine, Miss!"
But I never did. We all have our human flaws and mine is my poor ailing memory. I totally forgot to cancel it and so I was charged monthly without ever even realizing it. It was such a nonchalant and casual moment that I never made the mental note to myself. Yes. Shame on me.
When I did try to cancel it, they put on another spiel to convince me to NOT cancel. After what seemed like an hour (but was probably only really 5 minutes), they pretty much BRIBED me to stay.
With $50 worth of pre-paid gift cards.
I figured, HEY, why the hell not and recouped some of what I had paid. I got my $50 pre-paid gift cards in the mail, waited a week and then FINALLY cancelled.
HOW MANY FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS DO YOU HAVE?
And how many usernames and passwords have you made up to log in to check on every one of these?
- Credit cards
- Student Loans
- Auto Loans
- Personal Loans
HERE'S THE FIRST STEP TO KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR DEBT: JOIN MINT.COM
This is like having your very own personal assistant/bookkeeper, I promise! You enter in all of your accounts' information in there and now you only have to log into ONE place to see ALL of your accounts.
It's FREE. EASY. Your information is SAFE & SECURE. And it's CONVENIENT
I have been actively using this since 2012 and this is where I turned my fear around. I was no longer scared to look at my finances, in fact-- it was the opposite. I became addicted to looking at my finances and seeing how it improved.
Mint.com does the legwork for you. I was able to see how long it would take for me to pay off my credit cards, or how it would be affected if my interest rate and monthly payments went up or down.
I made budgets for myself. If I allotted $100 for clothes shopping per month and I overspent it by $30, then next month it says I only have $70 in my budget.
And here's where I started to really appreciate Mint. They would give me alerts BEFORE the financial institutions I had accounts with would give me alerts.
Here's what I mean. I had an online personal savings account with American Express for a year that had an APY of 0.90%. Mint sends me this e-mail:
I never received any notice from American Express. But recently last month (about a year later from that other e-mail), Mint sends me this:
Again, I never received notice from American Express. But it doesn't matter because of this:
"Rates are subject to change at any time without notice..." Yup. They stayed true to their word.
I would've noticed eventually looking at my statements but how nice is it that Mint alerts me immediately?
Here's another scenario. My Bank of America credit card is paid off and I have a $0.00 balance on it. Mint e-mails me this:
Wait. Why was I charged $1.50 in interest when I have a $0.00 balance? I called BOA and they apologized for their mistake and quickly took it back.
Imagine if this was Past Isabelle. (Well, Past Isabelle wouldn't have had $0.00 on her credit card but for example's sake here) She would have not looked at her statement and realize that $1.50 was taken out of her account to pay for a non-existent interest charge.
Next scenario. Something to keep in mind is that I'm enrolled in automatic payments. I noticed that Bank of America had withdrawn $25 from my checking account, despite having had a $0.00 balance.
Again, if it weren't for Mint, I wouldn't have called Bank of America to return my $25 back into my checking account. And then about 2 weeks later, the same thing happened! They took out $25 from my checking account again! So I called and got my refund.
I asked them why this happened and the rep that helped me seemed confused himself and mumbled about how being enrolled in e-bill is different from setting up automatic payments and that I would have to cancel for it to not happen it again.
I thought that was strange because I thought that automatic payments or not, if you have $0.00 balance on your credit card, nothing should taken from your checking account to "pay" in the first place. None of my other cards did that and I still have them automated to pay the full balance at the end of each month now too.
Plus, why would it happen in span of 2 weeks?!
This is the thing, there will be mistakes and accidents can happen. And we, ourselves, need to be on top of things to catch them. This could have happened to ANYONE.
And if you're too scared to look at your finances, then you would've been out of $51.50 within 13 days. That's a tank of gas right there! Well. 75% of it at least, lol.
Now it's your turn to stay on top of it!
1. Sign up for http://www.mint.com and start inputting your accounts.
2. Download the app onto your phone (I check my Mint on my phone more than my laptop actually)
3. Watch this video for a QUICK over explanation of how it works and how to use it:
4. Set goals, budgets, monitor your spending as you go, see how your net worth changes! Start making it a habit! You'll find yourself addicted in no time.
Also, if you're wondering how Mint makes money, they offer ways to save money or suggests credit cards and accounts to sign up for and gets kickbacks basically from these services. You are not obligated whatsoever to sign up for these. But if you are interested in signing up, definitely do as much research as you can outside of Mint before doing so.
Feel free to post comments on the blog and ask any questions you might have! And finally, thank you for the kind words, support, and love and sharing what I've posted so far. It means a lot to me!
For more of my personal financial stories and strategies I've used, come back to my blog every Money Mondays and Financial Fridays!