budget, money managementTechnology has made sticking to a budget easier through the use of auto-payments. With auto-payments, it’s possible to arrange to have the money you owe for bills and subscriptions deducted directly from your bank account on a specific date each month. This can help you avoid penalties and interest associated with late payments, and make managing your money easier.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to auto-payments: they’re easy to forget. If you don’t stay on top of them, you might continue to pay for items that you don’t really need—or want—anymore.

Review your auto-payments

Maybe you’re paying for the Netflix DVD service when all you use is the streaming service. Perhaps you’re paying for a gym membership when you haven’t been there in months. I recently realized that I’ve been paying for a monthly subscription to an online publication that I don’t read anymore.

Go through your account statements for your checking, savings, and credit card accounts. Are there recurring charges in the form of auto-payments? List out which items are paid automatically, taking care to record the name of the company and the amount sent each month.

Next, review each auto-pay account. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I still use this service/subscription/item?
  • Do I like what I’m paying for?
  • Can I afford to keep making this payment?
  • What else could I do with the money I spend on this payment?
  • What will it cost me to terminate the payment?

Canceling auto-payments

If you have decided that it’s time to cut back on the number of payments automatically deducted from your account, find out what steps you need to take to properly cancel them. Because it can take between three and 21 business days for your cancellation to take effect, get started with the process as fast as you can to avoid getting charged for another month.

Also consider that you probably need to do more than just cancel the automatic payments with your bank. Find out from the subscription, service, or company what steps you need to take to cancel your account completely. For example, many gyms require that you go in and sign termination papers in person. If you don’t do this, your canceled auto-pay may make it look as though you aren’t paying as agreed. The gym can then decide to turn your account over to collections, potentially harming your credit score.

After you have followed proper account termination procedures, monitor your funds for a couple of months. Make sure that the automatic payments have truly been canceled and that the money is no longer coming out of your bank account. You might need to continue monitoring your bank and credit card accounts, as well as your credit report, as errors and glitches could potentially result in auto-pay being reinstated later on.

The bottom line

Don’t let automatic payments bust your budget, and don’t continue paying for services and subscriptions you don’t use. Periodically review your budget and your accounts to identify auto-pay situations that might be costing you—and then cancel them.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.