Friday, October 07, 2011

Reading Bills All the Way Through, Even if They Look Right

For most bills we get, there’s an accompanying statement. Whether it’s a check at the restaurant, a cell phone bill, or a tuition bill; most will have an accompanying breakdown of charges. Sometimes we read these bills over to check them, when we know exactly how the breakdown should look, but rarely do we exert the same diligence when the situation is reversed.

Restaurant checks and cell phone bills are a case in point. When my wife and I go out to eat, even if it’s just the two of us, I almost invariable glance over the tab before adding a tip and signing my name at the bottom. I check to make sure that each of our entrees are listed, that our drinks are there, if there were any, and that nothing extra has been tacked on. That last point is the most important, because it’s the only reason most people read through their bills – to make sure that they are not being overcharged.

It’s the same thing with my cell phone bill, although I look over the statement less frequently because I never remember every call I made that month. Without a recollection of the details, I’ve always figured, why bother looking the bill over? After all, there’s no way to double-check the phone company’s records if I don’t know what I’m looking for in the first place. As a result, I only find myself looking over phone bills when the total balance seems unusually high. Maybe there will be some suspicious and random long-distance call, which I can then use a reverse phone lookup to track. Or maybe I simply failed to pay the full balance last month.

But there’s something to be gained from looking at a statement even when the bill looks right, and when there’s no suspicious long distance calls, and when there’s no remaining balance from the previous month. You probably know what I’m getting at here.

Just like the act of underlining makes someone more engaged with the writing, the simple act of reading over a statement makes it harder to mentally separate the phone calls you make every day and the check you write twelve times a year. By reading over the summary, and by seeing your charges slowly add up, you can more effectively learn to cut back calls and reduce needless phone expenses. My wife and I have been trying it out. At the very least, it will prepare us to read the bill judiciously in the case when our daughter becomes a teenager. ;0)

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