Love and math

My wife cannot balance a checkbook to save her life. Once, she paid three bills totaling more than the balance in our account, and recorded a new balance almost twice that after deducting for the three checks she wrote. I asked if she had forgotten to record a deposit. She said "no" and asked why I wanted to know, with a smile that reminds me every day why I married her.

She really is an amazing person. She has owned restaurants, published an award-winning cookbook, has a successful consulting business and directs a master’s degree program at a local university. My 9th-grade math teacher insisted that you couldn’t get ahead in life without algebra. He was wrong about a few other things, too. I’m no math wiz, but I can add and subtract without a calculator. And I’ve been stuck paying our bills for a long time.

One of the amazing things about paying bills today is all the ways you can do it. There are autopay programs, online programs, and even ways to pay using your cell phone, which I must caution you about. If you spend 12 hours or more each day talking, texting or Facebooking, please do not pay bills with your cell phone. You are obnoxious enough already. The pretty girl on television doing yoga and banking at the same time looks like she has the world on string, but it’s a trap! Your head will explode if you keep channeling more and more of your life into your cell phone. Trust me on this. My wife got a smart phone recently and I fear for her.

Most businesses nowadays want us to autopay them. They want to take money out of our bank accounts whenever they think we owe them. My wife may not be able to add and subtract, but she agrees with me that this isn’t a good thing to do with anything more substantial than your newspaper bill. Our cell phone company overbilled us monthly for almost a year before they finally got their act together. Pay what you actually owe, when you are supposed to, and never autopay any phone company.

The university where my wife works recently convinced us to go paperless with her pay stubs and W-2s. What a pain this is when you need to retrieve something. There are passwords and so many links to navigate that if you make a wrong move, you end up in Pennsylvania! Today I tried to get a copy of her W-2 and spent 20 minutes just finding the document, which I couldn’t open or print. Just then the mail arrived, so I timed myself opening bills that were hand-delivered by our neighborhood postman, who is a great guy, and always fun to chat with. On average, it took 10 seconds or less to open an envelope and inspect a bill. I made a note to have my head examined.

Our bank’s online bill payment program, I will admit, is pretty good. My buddy the postman delivers the bills, which I collect to pay online once or twice a month. It saves me time and postage, and even does the math—telling me how much we've spent and must deduct from our checkbook balance. I’ve tried showing this to my wife a few times, thinking she might want to try it, but she just gives me that smile. I love you too, dear.

Mike Gaynier is a Cleveland Heights resident, community activist, and an occasional contributor to the Heights Observer.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 4:35 PM, 01.31.2011