24 May 2006

Paying the Stupid Tax

When I was broke - really broke - I grew accustomed to paying late fees on my accounts. At the time, I really didn't have much of a choice. I suppose, in retrospect (and knowing what I know now), I MAY have had some choices, but I either didn't know that I had a choice, or I simply ignored it. I always remembered a childhood friend who referred to these types of fees as the "Stupid Tax." The theory was simple -- if you were stupid enough to get yourself into the position where you couldn't pay all of your bills, then you should be taxed.

We can debate the validity of that argument, but it stuck with me.

It really stuck with me. I'm not sure if everyone who cannot pay their bills is always due to stupidity, but having the money to pay your bills, and just not doing it -- well, that reeks of stupidity. Due to my travel schedule, I find that I miss paying a credit card bill on time. This really sucks because I usually pay my balance in full, so I get hit with finance charges that I would not normally pay, as well as the $29 "You Missed Your Payment Deadline by a Day" Stupid Tax.

Even worse, having the money in one account, and spending it out of another -- well, stupidity reigns supreme again! Worserest of all (work with me....I am making a point), is having a check in your own possession that will cover all that you spent, but not depositing said check until after you are overdrawn truly raises the bar on the stupid-o-meter.

So, today, when I logged into my online banking statement, I found that I had been overdrawn (I have overdraft protection, so they transferred the money from my savings to pay the charges). I had some charges hit from last week's business travel and my monthly student loan payment. I guess I never noticed that my balance had gotten dangerously low -- I do like to keep about $500-1,000 reserve in the checking account, because I am not the most up-to-date person on all of the debits, credits, and pre-authorized monthly payments into and out of my checking account. The problem is that I never realized that my travel reimbursement check was sitting in my desk since last Friday.

Net result - $10 Stupid Tax paid to Wachovia so that they can better handle my money than I can. $10 is much better than the $29 to the credit card company, and a lot better than what would have been if they simply "bounced" the overdrafts, and then I had to pay Wachovia about $25 a pop PLUS each of the vendors -- three, for a total overdraft of about $60. Maybe I got a discount on my Stupid Tax.

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