The Budget this week has me thinking about how no one likes their finances meddled with, especially given the prospect of more or increased bills. I’m no exception.

Illustration by Warren Brown, The Daily Telegraph

When they arrive in my letter box I’m instantly in a bad mood. I know they’re due but somewhere in the back of my mind I still hope that just once in my lifetime, the “systems” will go down and all the slates will be wiped clean. 

I find I’m actually quite defensive towards them.  I sometimes wonder if I were to tear it up, would anyone notice?

Of course they would, they would hunt me down and in the meantime they would cut off my supply.

Bills are essential in the framework of our existence. They’re like frequent bowel movements. Without them everything comes to a painful halt.

But lately I find I’ve become even more frustrated, the recent scandals around banking fees have prompted me to look more closely at my receipts – transactions fees, service fees, phone banking fees, ATM $2 dollar fees, insurance fees. So many fees.

And what has really infuriated me lately is receiving my bills as e-statements or suffer an additional fee for using paper. I get an email telling me that my statement is available to be viewed online.

So now I need another in a long list of usernames and passwords.

In our hectic lives an email telling us to view a bill is generally something that can wait until later. Last month alone I had to pay overdue fees because I forgot to pay one. It’s the first time I’ve done it and it was infuriating.

I understand the whole save the trees business but to me a bill doesn’t feel real unless you can hold it in your hand and then angrily toss it in the waste paper bin.

The other bills I hate are the guilt bills – the ones we pay, for peace of mind in the event of anything bad ever happening. I’m talking about insurance. Fully comprehensive car insurance, property insurance, health cover, life cover, death cover, pet cover, wage insurance, payment protection insurance… and the list goes on depending on your circumstance. 

We can insure ourselves against fairly much anything these days, which probably isn’t a great advertisement for optimism.

And if we do get the sudden urge to take a risk, no doubt we’ll be halted in our tracks by the all too familiar saying, “The day you’re not covered is the day something will go wrong.” 

Has anyone proved that? Has anyone gone out and tested the validity of that statement? If there are any studies you can point me to, please do.

It doesn’t matter I suppose, it’s hard to put a price on peace of mind and one thing is for certain, we never do know what’s around the corner.

We live in an age of uncertainty and advancement, of greater opportunities and fewer excuses. We have mind-boggling technology that streamlines and manages our lives.

But just because all of this doesn’t come for free doesn’t mean we have to enjoy paying for it.

Perhaps we can console ourselves with the words of Oscar Wilde. “A man who pays his bills on time is soon forgotten”.

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20 comments

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    • OldGirl says:

      07:16am | 14/05/10

      Your an intelligent young man. Governements come and go but we are always stuck with the bills. I got my electricity bill yesterday, I near had a stroke at how high it was. A few stinklin hot days this summer, made me bolt to turn the ac on and now I regret it. The alternative was too cook, so I guess I never had much of a choice. Winter is upon us and I am in N.S.W and the bill is set to rise 30 odd % I think. So my answer was get a flu shot !!. If I am going to freeze least I won’t get the flu. I don’t like paper bills either, especially the ones you get telling you that you owe zero balance this month. No wonder our fees are so high, they post you out a bill telling you what you already know. I enjoyed this article thank you very much

    • dancan says:

      02:02pm | 14/05/10

      I rent an old apartment with craptastic wiring and electrics.  During winter I pile on the jumpers, socks, ugg boots, flanny sheets, doona, quilt etc and I don’t use a heater.  After all this and still freezing my bill is $250+ over winter

    • Gareth says:

      07:27am | 14/05/10

      Go direct debit. Then the money’s gone before you even knew you had it. Sometimes I don’t even open the envelope because I don’t want to ruin my day, but I know it will get paid.

    • Daniel says:

      08:27am | 14/05/10

      Well the bills never seem to end. they never stop coming. I try to reduce my use but even that doesnt seem to work. Now these companies have got credit companies involved if your late they throw in fees, or worse your credit rating ends up down the tubes. Its not fair.

    • Saint says:

      09:32am | 14/05/10

      I’ve never read such a load of tripe. Why should you not pay for what you consume. Are you also gripped by fury after eating at a restaurant when the bill arrives?

      If you don’t want to pay the electricity bill, don’t use any. Do you think the electricity fairies deliver it to your powerpoints? The infrastructure required to generate and distribute electricity and other utilities costs billions, why should you then enjoy it for free?

      As for insurance, no one is holding a gun to your head. Don’t but any if you don’t want to pay for it, but then don’t complain when you can’t afford to replace stolen property or you have to wait for medical treatment or you can’t afford to pay your mortgage when you are unable to work. As with utilities, there are no insurance fairies. The insurance companies need to make money to stay in business and have money to pay claims. That money comes from premiums.

      Grow up.

    • d.jay.stevo says:

      10:11am | 14/05/10

      Did you read the article? He was complaining about an increase in bills, the ridiculous amount of bank fees, not receiving bills on paper without paying, and the fact that we are bombarded with countless advertisments guilting us into insuring ourselves against things one never even considered before. Damien never said a word about expecting anything for free!

    • Davo says:

      10:33am | 14/05/10

      Saint , i think you need to take a chill pill , he isnt saying everything should be free , but lately most bills are going through the roof and it is hard to keep up . Why should we have to pay higher prices for things like electricity when we pay taxes for infrastructure , its not our fault that incompetent governments have wasted all our money.

    • Botfly says:

      11:40am | 14/05/10

      Saint Your sure not saintly, we all know we have to pay the bills, but they are getting higher and higher it seems daily. Noone wants anything for free but if they cut the rubbish out like sending us paper trails things might be a little cheaper and we would have less junk mail to worry about and not to mention we may save a few tree’s Oldgirls post I think is pretty accurate in regard to older Australian’s, especially those in N.S.W . I think many will get very sick this winter, especially those in areas that have snow . You need to lighten up Saint

    • Jenni says:

      10:49am | 14/05/10

      “The day you’re not covered is the day something will go wrong.” 

      A few years ago, after purchasing a new car, I let the insurance on my old bomb lapse (it was a fully sik ‘82 Sigma - maaaate - in the appealing colour named “ford tractor blue”). After all, I was selling it anyway, and not driving it, what’s the worst that could happen?

      ... answer? While it was parked on the corner outside my flat with a “for sale” sign on it, a stolen car lost control and slammed headfirst into it - total writeoff. LOL

      I can laugh about it now, but at the time all I saw in that crumpled, destroyed metal was the $4000 payout I *would* have gotten from the insurance company, on a car that I would have considered myself lucky to sell for $2000, and which was now to be sold for $100 as scrap metal :(

    • Philosopher says:

      12:53pm | 14/05/10

      This is so true. I had an old car that I let the comprehensive insurance lapse on as I was planning on selling it soon. I didn’t think I’d get much for it, but enough to cover the rego + new tyres (about 1 grand). The day after the insurance lapsed, someone stole my car. I could have at least gotten 1 grand with the comprehensive insurance on that. Sometimes I wonder if the insurance companies hire people to do this to make us afraid to not have insurance? Bit of a conspiracy theory I know but there are so many stories like ours!

    • Ginger says:

      11:17am | 14/05/10

      Thanks for the dose of perspective, Damien. You’re right. The budget is neither here nor there in the context of bills. I could fully relate to your article after having spent an hour and a half on the phone to one of the big four about a highly confusing and complex credit card which I was charged interest for when I thought I had it all sorted to pay it off within the interest free period.
      It’s so hard to keep up. I generally try to pay for everything in small doses on a fortnightly basis so I never get any suprises when a bill arrives. Being a recent home buyer I never knew how many bills were possible- body corporate, home and contents, electricity, credit card, mortgage payments, the furniture we put on an interest period, car insurance, rego, phone bills- it’s incredibly challenging to keep up!

    • Paul Horn says:

      12:24pm | 14/05/10

      You are certainly right there Ginger! Not only that but the bills themselves are becoming increasingly complex! How many bloody tariffs can they put on ones electricity bill? 20% percent of your normal tariff gets charged at this rate, then the next 40% at that rate bla bla bla!!! Our water bills have also recently changed, for the worse of course. Rather than charging you at a higher rate for excess water consumed at the end of the financial year now they charge you quarterly and calculate your average daily consumtion which gets compared to daily tariffs which means you can be charged at the excess rate regardless of whether you actually exceed the excess limit. You have to sit down with a damned scientific calculator and figure out how exactly they arrive at costing!!! Even the girl at the help desk could not explain how they do the calculation.

      If that isn’t bad enough then we have to deal with our unbelievably complicated taxation system.

      Better to become a monk and go live in a cave!

    • Philosopher says:

      12:47pm | 14/05/10

      Couldn’t agree more. I understand that we do need to pay for services via bills, but it astounds me the rate in increase of such services. I just got my electricity bill which was 30% higher than my bill 1 year ago (with exact same usage). If I take away the ambulance levy, line maintenance fee, and GST on all of that, my actually energy usage is only about 50% of my total bill!

      I am always astounded too by all the types of insurance you can have. I reckon the companies watch you too - it always happens that when you are insured nothing goes wrong, but as soon as you drop it, the inevitable happens!

      I feel the government runs society like this: We pay you a certain wage, which guarantees that by the time everyone takes just a little bit of your money from all angles, you will be left with just enough to eat and pay your minimum mortgage or rent (ie roof over your head). That way you HAVE to keep working till you retire, then they get as much tax out of you as possible. We are all rats on a wheel really, just trying to survive - its survival of the richest now though, not fittest.

    • Bill says:

      12:56pm | 14/05/10

      The thing I don’t get with paper bills, is that they never charged a fee for this before. It seems these days there are all these “new” fees which were always just part of the service but now we pay for separately. E.g. when you go the supermarket you now pay for shopping bags which used to be free. Yet the food isn’t any cheaper to compensate!

    • Cheryl Glen says:

      07:32pm | 14/05/10

      I agree with every word Damien, great article !
      We had a long thought about our finances, low incomes etc, and took the step of getting everything ‘prepaid’.
      It has cut the cost on a lot of things, however, it really does not matter how hard we try, you really cannot stop bills coming in.
      The electric bill is the biggest money grabber and has doubled and stayed HIGH in recent times ! The trouble is you really cannot live without electricity these days.
      The same with our water bill. We have a native garden and ‘never’ water, yet this bill has now jumped up a 3rd more in the cost of the bill.
      Not only do we have to now ‘buy’ plastic bags to put the garbage in, we also have to buy plastic bags to put our shopping in, simply because we forgot to grab our prior bought bags on the way out of the front door.

      Talking about the guilt bills… the bills which really get up my nose and I did query it, was our car insurances. I now pay ‘more’ for my car insurance now ny car is a few years old, than I paid when it was brand new. ?
      The reason they gave me was because the car is more likely to have an accident now it is older (five years so old ! lol)  It is still almost brand new !

      Thanks for letting me have a gripe with you Damien, it is nice to know even the best of us get hideous Bills !! LOL
      Cheryl :o)

    • Dan says:

      10:22pm | 14/05/10

      If insurance was worth it in the long run then the insurance companies would never make a profit.  I’m all for third-party type insurances to avoid stiffing someone else if something goes wrong, but other than that my approach is to only pay insurance if not having it could actually ruin me or my family financially.  Over the past decade I’ve probably hired cars and trucks around 50 to 60 times and I’ve always refused to pay the extra “excess reduction” fee (a type of insurance).  The amount of money I’ve saved just there puts me roughly two claims ahead.  A bit of quick maths tells you the odds the insurance company is offering.  Once you take the excess into account you’ll usually find they’re assuming you’ll crash your car pretty much once every couple of years, you’ll lose your mobile phone every six months, you’ll have to replace the transmission in your car within a year ($2000 excess on a claim that’s capped at $3000, anyone?), and other fairly pessimistic or outright ludicrous figures.  Anyone who’s not a complete klutz and has at least half a working brain would usually be better off self-insuring in the long run.

    • Lorry Hafner says:

      12:25pm | 15/05/10

      I don’t mind paying my bills providing they are reasonable.  Electricity has soared in QLD and now putting on the kettle makes you thinks tiwce.  Rates bill is $700 qtr, car rego is $864 pa, house and contents insurance is $2200 and $600 of that is in GST and stamp duty, now the Govt is increasing our water charges too.  And as of 1 July my health insurance goes up 7% and I will lose my govt rebate of 30%.  Oh did I mention that I have not had a pay rise in over 2 years.  According to the Govt I am suppose to be rich - ha unlikely - If the govt thinks I am on easy street, they should try living on mince every night for dinner. There are only so many ways to make rissoles.

    • Kerri says:

      12:49pm | 15/05/10

      Damien wow you are not only a great entertainer you also speak absolute words of wisdom, well done. If you’re headed into politics I’ll be watching you! You hit the nail on the head about bills and insurance and their effect on optimism.  My husband hates them so much he never opens them, he leaves it up to me because I handle the stress better (yeh, with a sherry in one hand and my antidepressants in the other).  Well done Damien.

    • Molly says:

      02:05pm | 15/05/10

      Damien, I love your articles. Keep it up mate.

    • Timmo says:

      09:17am | 17/05/10

      What we do with bills is pay during the period of usage something to the companies by direct debit, say Electricity, 20 dollars a fortnight and the same for telephone etc and after this is deducted from the final bill it makes it less although we still pay the lot but pay as we go.

      We all need electricity, phone etc these day just to have a quick easy way to live and this also gives more time to enjoy life as different to having to start up a combustion stove to heat hot water and cook, and these days firewood is getting probably more expensive than paying of power.

      So paying as we go is an easy way to do it. But Damien I think that what you wrote is good. At the end of the day it is about the Puppets and the Puppeteers. We should all try to moderate our lifestyles according to our incomes and definately keep out of debt. Debt is the crippling factor. We can still have a simple life if we want, it’s just a matter of finding happiness with small things. Anyway, that’s it from me. Bye.

 

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