Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Taking Care of Business

I finally took care of some business with my bank that's been driving me crazy this past month. I have a small amount of overdraft protection (that costs $3 or $3.50 per month) and this month I've exceeded it twice.

I get paid every second Wednesday but I have a lot of things that come out of my account on fixed dates (the majority of which are clustered near the beginning and end of the month). So, as my pay dates cycle around on the calendar they gradually fall more and more out of sync with the pre-authorized dates. This is why I have overdraft protection and it usually works fine. So, what happened?

Partly I overspent a tiny bit while we were at the house, plus we spent a lot on gas. I thought everything that normally comes out at the beginning of the month had come out, but one thing that comes from the States didn't make it before the 4th of July, so it came out on the 7th. Then, after it came out ING took the $12 I transfer to my Emergency Fund every week. I didn't get paid until the 9th. Both the US debit and ING were sent back NSF on the 8th. And, to top it off, the NSF fees just went up, so I got dinged $42.50 for each one!

It gets better. I got shorted on my paycheque. It was missing 3 days that I took as vacation because my vacation pay was already paid out for the year, 3.5 hours I'd worked (on days I'm technically scheduled to work fewer hours) and 4 hours for Canada Day. The 3.5 hours weren't really a problem. The accountant said she'd pay them on my next cheque but she hadn't paid me for the statutory holiday because I had taken the 30th of June as a vacation day and she said I didn't qualify for it unless I worked both the day before and the day after the stat. This is what happens when your head office is in a different province from the one you work in. I emailed her the link to the BC Employment Standards Act that clearly states an employee qualifies if he or she has been employed for at least 30 days and has worked at least 15 out of the 30 days prior to the statutory holiday.

So, after deductions and after I put the cheque in the bank I was back in the black to the tune of $66. That's $66 to last for 2 entire weeks when I pay for all the food, more than half the gas, have pre-authorized stuff coming out, etc. Hubby transferred $75 to me and I could have, should have transferred $150 from my ING Vacation Pay fund ($50 for each vacation day I took). But I didn't. I'm still not so comfortable with moving stuff from here to there and back again, so I just never got around to doing it.

I spent barely any money these past 2 weeks. The absolute minimum on food and gas. My big splurge was the $5.66 I spent last week for a hard cover book. The pre-authorized stuff came out, my life insurance and ING. Would you believe I missed it by that much? By $6 to be exact.

So, I went to the bank this morning before work and had a little meeting with them. I basically said, "This is what I want or I walk and take my RRSPs with me". When the dust cleared I was assured the payment to ING would not go back, there would be no $42.50 fee (although there will probably be a $5 one), they took the earlier ING NSF fee off and increased my overdraft by $100. I also deposited the $56 benefit cheque to reduce the overdraft.

What have I learned from this? First of all, this wouldn't have happened if I had kept a closer watch on the bank account. I've been trying to get back into the routine of entering all the money we spend but I've been having a tough time doing it. I have to try harder. Second, I wouldn't have had any problem whatsoever if we weren't living paycheque to paycheque!

We don't have a big enough buffer and I'm not comfortable enough moving money between my main bank and ING. It's ironic, but if I hadn't moved the vacation pay I got a few weeks ago out of my bank and into ING I wouldn't have been in overdraft at all, let alone exceeded it. But I'm trying to learn new skills so, just like a kid with the training wheels removed, I'm having a few falls. I have to keep trying. I have to keep adding to my Emergency Fund (yes, I know it will take only slightly less than forever at $12/week, but that's what I can do) and I have to start doing set-aside accounts (escrow, Freedom, whatever you want to call it) in order to have money ready for irregular expenses.

After I did all of that I called Fortis BC to ask if I had another electric bill due for our rural house. Yes, there's a payment of just under $69 scheduled to come out on the 25th. So, tomorrow I need to go to a Credit Union and deposit money into my account in the Okanagan. And, while I was on the phone with them I signed up to receive my future bills via email. That way it won't matter whether we've been to the house or not. I'll still know how much I owe and when it's due!

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