Sunday, February 06, 2011

3 Lessons Learned from My Banking Error

This past week was filled with excitement, albeit the uncomfortable variety when I had to pay my bills quickly via my bank's electronic payment system and made a mistake which will be annoying at least, and costly at worst.

First, the week was a busy one in which I did not feel like I had the time I needed in order to do it properly.

Lesson Learned: carve out time in your normal routine to pay bills and check on finances. Not doing so will cause mistakes.

The mistake was a rather easy one to make: I paid one bill on my electronic banking instead of another bill. They were named something similar so the mistake was fairly easy to make. The result was a large credit on one account and an outstanding balance on another.

Second, I discovered the mistake but was so blindsided by it that I didn't handle it properly, immediately and instead intended to simply run up this month's expenses against the card with the credit. And thereby paying everything off within the next 30 days or so, no real harm done. This turned out to be incorrect as I had incorrectly identified the account that this had happened on.

Lesson Learned: Once a mistake is made, don't try to be clever. Just fix it (reverse it) as fast as possible. Being clever makes things more confusing and causes more problems.

All told, I should be able to call tomorrow and get this sorted out, but it is likely to take even more time than it would have were I to simply do the right thing in the first place and take my time with the bills. The situation is rather annoying, but I have to guess fairly common.

Thankfully, I tend to keep a buffer in the checking account of about 2-4 weeks worth of bills for just such a mistake. This has saved me multiple times.
Lesson Learned: Keeping a one-month buffer of cash in your account is well worth the interest you're giving up.