Okay, I admit it. I’m one of those people. You know, the ones who cling to their old-fashioned paper bank statements, pay bills using checks and snail mail, and have yet to figure out exactly how to use that thing called BillPayer. It’s not that I’m computer illiterate, or that I’m afraid of putting my financial information online. But over time I developed a well-organized system for handling my statements and bills each month, and the thought of having to establish a new system and new habits after signing up for online banking seemed highly unappealing.
However, there was a downside to my familiar, old-fashioned paper-statement method. To track my monthly budget, I had to separately enter all the withdrawals, deposits, and credit card purchases listed on my statements into an Excel spreadsheet. Not only was this tedious, but I found it hard to enter all the transactions in a timely manner and keep the spreadsheet up to date.
One day, while talking with a friend about budgeting, he suggested that I use mint.com to keep track of my finances and budget. Mint.com is a free, online financial tool that allows people to connect their online bank accounts and credit cards to one site so they can easily view their overall finances, set budgets, and keep track of their expenses. By connecting to your online accounts, mint.com is able to keep track of all your bank and credit card transactions and automatically assigns transactions to particular budget categories based on your past expenditures and settings.
Of course, in order for mint.com to access online accounts, you first need to have online accounts, and this is exactly what I have been avoiding for years. To have the privilege of online banking at 1STBANK, for instance, you either have to give up paper statements for e-statements or pay a $3.00 monthly fee. (No paper statement!?! Please excuse me for a moment as I hyperventilate…)
After much soul-searching and several emotional scenes with my filing cabinet, I decided it was time to close the drawers on the old system and move on to online banking. After all, I decided, I could always print out my e-statements if saving them on a hard drive didn’t fully satisfy my craving for a complete financial record. So I switched my bank accounts to e-statements and signed up for online banking for my bank accounts and my credit card.
I made the switch to online banking this week, and while I have to say that I dread the coming of the new month without crisp paper statements in the mail, I am impressed with how easy it is to view my accounts and transactions online. I can get a current view of my finances, instead of having to wait until my statements come in. I can receive email alerts to remind me of upcoming bills. Best of all (in my opinion), instead of spending my time putting transactions into my budget, I can actually focus on organizing my budget and setting up a plan to save for that house I want!
I’m curious, though. How many paper people are still out there? If you are one of the steadfast few, what are your reasons for sticking with paper statements? And if you happen to be on the other side of the fence and prefer online banking, what are the benefits you like about the new system?