Sunday, December 7, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

No, this isn't a post about the Vancouver Canucks (who used to use that redundant phrase in their ads)!

The thing about making money mistakes is that they aren't horrible if you learn from them. You make a mistake, you fix it and now you know better. Sooner or later you make another mistake but it's a different one. You fix it and now you know something else that you shouldn't do.

The problem comes when you make the same mistake over and over. I'm an intelligent person. I'm quite well-read. I understand a lot of basic financial concepts. I'm even quite capable of expounding on them in this blog. So, why do I make the same mistakes repeatedly?

Previously I was paying the bills with whatever money was left after all the automatic payments and buying all our food and gas. That meant a lot of bills weren't getting paid in a timely way. This past month or so I've started paying the bills first and then buying food and gas. As I already pointed out, that's been tough. But it's more real. If we're short on food and payday is several days away we really feel it. It's not like not paying my cell bill for a month.

Putting gas and groceries after the bills is a good thing. It's designed to teach us to be more careful and to show us in a practical way that living beyond our means hurts. The problem is that there is a certain minimum amount we do have to spend on these items on an ongoing basis. It's not practical to just run out of gas 3 days before payday because I can't get Dear Child to and from school and myself to and from work in that case. (School would be about 2 hours walk each way, work is over an hour along basically the same route and if I could pay for transit I might as well be putting gas in the car because it would cost more for transit than for gas.) It's also not reasonable (or ethical) to totally run out of food with a small child in the house. So, I spent more money than I had in order to take care of these needs.

I realized at some point that I wasn't going to stretch until I got my next cheque and started trying to do something about it. First, I asked Hubby for money but he didn't have any. Then I transferred money from ING, from my already depleted emergency fund but that doesn't happen instantly. So, I kept checking and, sure enough, the other day the biggest outstanding cheque had come in and I'd exceeded my overdraft limit. My Eldest Daughter graciously offered to temporarily cover it but we had to wait until the end of the day to get her paycheque.

When we went to the bank and transferred money the cheque had already been bounced and I'd been charged $42.50. I talked to the bank about not returning the cheque but they told me it was too late and, besides, they'd already had this discussion with me before and they weren't interested. I pulled out the "I'll move all my investments out of here" threat and they basically said I shouldn't let the door hit me on the way out. Okay, they weren't quite that rude but the girl said she was "sorry [I] felt that way, goodbye". And she smirked.

So, I won't be transferring RRSPs from Sun Life to TD. Instead, I'm going to go sometime next week to check out a local credit union that offers totally free chequing. This was something I was interested in doing anyway because, between Hubby and myself, we're paying over $40 per month in bank service charges. That's just ridiculous. In fact, it's like bouncing a cheque every month!

As for my RRSPs, I'm not sure if I can actually move the GIC I just set up a couple of months ago. It may have to sit there for the full 2 year term, but I transfer $10 per week into a money market fund that earns almost no interest. It collects there until I have the minimum required for another GIC, at which time I get one, etc. That $10 per week can go somewhere else. I just have to figure out where. And I probably will wait to move that until the end of December, simply so I don't have to deal with getting more than one receipt for my income tax for this year.

Anyway I'm mad. I'm mad at myself. I'm mad that the money from ING didn't arrive in time, even though I know it doesn't happen like snapping your fingers. But most of all, I'm mad that the girl was rude to me. I don't think she believed me that I was going to move my money and that's why she was smirking at me. She figured I was just like the boy who cried wolf and that I'd stay and they could continue to charge me and charge me and charge me. But I'm going to move my account and when I move the RRSPs I'm going to make it clear that this is why I'm doing it.

Yes, I have to realize that I'm ultimately responsible for my finances. No, they don't necessarily have to reverse the charges for me. But they have a responsibility to be polite about it. If they can't be polite they don't deserve my business.


Grace. said...

With regard to the bank employee--once you move the money, I'd suggest writing a letter to the Bank CEO with a copy to the local branch manager explaining (politely) how irritating the smirk was, as well as their disintrest in keeping your accounts. Do tell them that you've moved your money to a credit union--banks HATE that! And at the end, tell the CEO that you would appreciate a response to your letter. It should be fascinating to see what or if you get in return.

Shevy said...

I tend to procrastinate endlessly about things like this but it's really a good idea Grace.

There was also the time they explained why it took something like 2.5 days for money to transfer from my hubby's account to mine. (You have to realize that our accounts are in the *same* branch of the same bank and that he regularly transfers money into my account when he gets paid.)

It was our fault, of course. You shouldn't use the ATM when you want to transfer. You should come into your home branch and do the transaction at a teller. (So why is there a transfer button on the ATM? And why do we have ATMs? Aren't they connected to computers?)

And, additionally, the bank processes transactions done after noon on the next business day. It's bank policy, spelled out when you open an account. You're supposed to read the paperwork when you open your account you know.

I asked for, and was given, a copy of all that paperwork. I read through it and could find no such policy listed.

Maybe that's why that time they were willing to reverse the charges, because they knew they were talking nonsense.

I meant to write after that incident and never got around to it. Maybe I *should* do it this time.

Bouncing Back said...

I would also write the local branch managet about the irritation smirk of the teller. A few weeks ago, I got a follow up call on my car service and one complaint I had to the poor girl who called me was I was not happy to witness the eye rolling exsaperation of the auto technician when I "declined" the extra not needed work they wanted to perform on my car. This dealership does not provide courtsey cars, but does provide low cost rental cars and after the call, they waived the cost of the rental car.

I was polite, I was professional, but I was quite firm when I told the caller that the eye rolling needs to be done where the customer can't see it.