One of my goals for 2019 is to focus more and better. By personality, focus is not one of my strong points. It is something that I am committed to improving. Since my 2017 Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten and the other traumatic events of 2017 (which you can read about in my latest book, Changing Me From the Inside Out, available on Amazon), I have become acutely aware of the problems involved in failing to focus. Paying Attention and Focus are closely related. I have a recent example of the importance of these.
I was reviewing my bank accounts this week (something I do not do often enough!) and found a charge that I did not recognize. I called the bank for an explanation. The charge was a small one, but small charges eventually add up. The charge was for a paper statement, and it had just been levied. I was successful in getting the charge removed, as well as another charge a few months back that I had ignored. The total amount of these two charges was only $42 but I would rather have that $42 than give it to the bank! I had to sign up for e-statements to remove that charge, something I did not want to do but had to do to avoid the monthly charge. And I do realize that from a sustainability perspective, e-statements make sense. But ultimately, they result in an additional cost that I can’t escape.
Have you noticed that many institutions with which we do business, including banks and credit card companies, “push” us to do everything online? Of late, many of these want us to cancel paper statements, resulting in us having to pay the cost of printing a statement when one is required. The cost of that to us may be small most of the year, but at tax time when we print copies of these the costs add up.
While talking to my banker, I asked about an upcoming change that I had read about that is supposed to go into effect in February. The change is a monthly service charge that will be required unless a certain amount of money is maintained in the account, and the amount of money required for “free checking” is not a small amount. I am a small business owner, as I think many of my bank’s customers are. My hometown bank recently merged with another bank, a change which I am crediting with these changes. I told the banker if the intent of all of this is to drive away small business owners, they will probably be successful! He replied that the bank is reconsidering the “free checking” charge and that he doubts it will go into effect. I will pay attention and monitor this planned change and move my accounts if this change does go into effect.
Now, aren’t banks earning plenty of money already without having to levy additional charges for the same services on their customers? And the amount of money spent just in rebranding alone when banks and other institutions merge is a cost that is often, and maybe usually, passed on to customers. When these institutions plan to implement new programs and announce those through mailings, additional costs are incurred, and likely, again passed on to customers. When these intended changes are ill-conceived, such as the minimum charge for free checking, and are withdrawn, that is then announced through additional mailings, again, at a cost. And remember, banks are making lots of money already, using our money.
This isn’t really about banks and other institutions making money, to continue to serve us, they have to. But how much is enough? And, we need to be diligent in paying attention to how these costs are passed on to us, and shop around when appropriate.
Another example of paying attention that can save us money. Do you compare your credit card receipts with your statements? I haven’t usually. Mike does, and he has found mistakes. So, in 2019, I will be doing so. In addition to possibly finding mistakes and correcting them, I think that facing my purchases monthly will result in me spending less.
In this first month of the new year, what is it that you need to pay more and/or better attention to?