Handling Bills, Paychecks & Mail

Handling Bills, Paychecks & Mail

bills mail workation
How do you stay on top of bills, paychecks and mail when you’re on workation? It takes some coordination, but you have several options.

Make a list of all of your monthly bills. Then, get out a calendar (or I like to print one that just has the months I need) and map out when you receive your bills and when they come due. Will any of these overlap with your workation, or can some wait to be paid until you get back?

For the ones that can’t wait until you return, you have a few options:

  1. Which bills can you pay automatically by credit card or automatic withdrawal each month? That way, you don’t even have to think about them. You can usually pay at least a few bills this way, including:
    • Cell phone
    • Internet
    • Cable
    • Mortgage
    • Student loans
    • Other memberships/fees/childcare costs/tuition that you can’t put on hold while you’re gone.
  2. If you don’t already, can you sign up to receive electronic versions of your bills so you receive the bills by email and know the amount you owe and their due date while you’re on a workation? Then:
    • Sign up to pay these bills online manually each month through the vendor’s website OR
    • Use a bill pay service through your own bank (these are usually free). I love this option and use it when I’m not on workation: I log into my online bank account and enter the information of the companies I regularly pay. While I’m on a workation, I simply log into my bank site, enter the amounts and due dates of the bills I have to pay, and my bank sends the checks to those companies for me. And there are no charges or fees for doing it.
  3. If there is absolutely NO way to pay a bill automatically or through an automatic bank withdrawal or through an online bill pay service through your bank, then see my Mail section below for other ideas.

If you get direct deposit from your employer, congratulations! You can rely on a regular, steady addition to your bank account. Cross this item off your to-do list.

If your employer doesn’t do direct deposit, or you’re like me and receive several checks in the mail throughout the month from clients, you’ll have to figure out how to get the money into your bank account. Some options:

  1. Ask your clients to pay by credit card. I use a service called Wave from which I invoice my clients and receive credit card payments. Their payment goes directly into my bank account. (note that most any credit card payment service will charge you a fee based on the amount charged – but Wave has one of the lowest percentages from what I’ve found)
  2. Can you get paid via ACH? This way, you can avoid paying the credit card payment fee.
  3. Continue to receive paper checks (see Mail section below for how to deposit them).

Mail can be tricky and it’s caused me more than one headache. Here are your options and what I do:

  1. You can have the USPS hold your mail. If you’re just going to be gone a few weeks and don’t need to know about any bills or receive any paychecks, this may be the simplest option for you. And it’s free.
  2. Sign up to get USPS to forward your mail to a different address. Piece by piece, USPS will send your mail to a different location – for the total cost of $1. Ask a family member/neighbor/friend to receive your mail and let you know when anything important arrives. I DO NOT recommend this if you receive payments by mail, as some of them are marked “Return Service Requested” and USPS will NOT forward these to your alternate address (instead they’re mailed back to the sender). This happened to me on our last workation and a few paychecks were delayed (so I had to switch mail services half way through the trip). That wasn’t fun.
  3. I personally use the Premium Forwarding Service by USPS. It costs more – $17.75 to sign up online and then about $20 a week for each week of service – but I find the peace of mind and ease is worth it. With this service, my local post office holds my mail, packages it, and then ships it to a different address one time per week. In my case, the mail is sent to a family member’s house. So each week they get a package of my mail and are kind enough to sort through it and send me an email with any bills or paychecks received.
    • This may sound like a lot of work for a family member, but think of all the junk mail that you get; the remaining “important” mail doesn’t take long to sort through. My family member assures me it takes her less than 5 minutes each week to flip through my mail and find what needs attention.
    • I leave the family member with several paper deposit slips and my bank account information. She manually deposits my paychecks for me while I’m away. This works well if you bank with a large, corporate bank that has a lot of branch or ATM locations.
    • If the person who receives your mail doesn’t live near your bank or can’t deposit your checks, here’s another option I learned from a community bank in my area: Call your bank and ask if you (or whoever gets your mail) can mail your paychecks to the bank. As long as you include some basic information like your address and last four digits of your account number, the bank will get the paychecks into your account. Some banks may even give you deposit mailing envelopes to make the process easier, or have a mobile deposit option on their bank’s app.

Whatever you choose, make sure you call your bank (and credit card company) and let them know you’ll be traveling so they don’t think your far-flung transactions are fraud and shut down your account. Even if you’re taking  a workation within the U.S., call your bank and credit card company and let them know.

One final note: Make sure to put any newspapers you receive on hold – this means daily papers AND local community papers that are delivered separately from your regular mail. I just call subscription services and tell them we’re going to be gone for a few weeks and to not deliver anything to our house. Because nothing says “We’re not home, please rob us” like a pile of newspapers on your front step!


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