Life Skills: Teach my daughter about paying the bills

My 18yo is poised to move out. She’s not quite done with school, but she’s ready to go and she’s definitely at a moment in her life where she’s looking out the front windshield, even while occasionally glancing at the rear view mirror and remembering earlier years and childhood.

Thing of it is, as with almost all children, she really has no idea about the most basic elements of running a house, whether it’s a shared dorm room with another girl or 1/4th of a shared condo in a trendy party of town. Basic things like how to deal with an overflowing toilet or even just paying a bill — or writing a check to pay a bill! — are outside of her experience at this point.

So it’s time to do something about it so she’s a bit more ready to stand on her own two feet when the time does come for her to pile her treasured possessions in her car and get the heck outta Dodge.

Today we looked at bills. And conveniently, I had a few due, a bill for water from the City of Boulder and an energy bill from Xcel Energy. Energy bills look kinda like this:

city of boulder faux mock power bill sample demo

Because I tend to round up my bill amounts, there was a non-zero, non-blank balance forward, so we had to talk about how this sort of accounting is done and how it’s the Amount Due that’s what you need to pay, not the Balance Forward. You write the amount in the Amount Enclosed slot, then it’s time to write a check.

Which she’d never done either.

Now you can pay online, but in my experience not 100% of bills are payable that way, and if you instead pay with a credit card on the Web site, many companies stick you with the transaction fee, and I see no reason to pay the extra 3% or more because I’m too lazy to write a check.

I had her write the checks, including the date, payable to, and amount fields, along with the memo field being the relevant account number from the bill being paid.

“I write the amount twice?”

Yup. Once as a number — “$30.76” — and once in words — “thirty” followed by the cents in a digits-over-zero format. She instantly understood, and all of a sudden I had my own admin doing all the work of paying my bills. All I did was sign the checks.

girl writing checks on kitchen counter

Final step: a return label and postage and they were ready to mail. “Make sure the recipient address is visible through the cut-out if there is one on the envelope!” and away they went, into the mailbox.

Next up, how to check tire pressure and oil in her car to ensure she’s good for a road trip she’s planning. Then to see if she can manage my standard mantra: wake up, make your bed and never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Then what? What other useful home economics / life skills can I teach my girl before she steps out in the big world without a parent clearing the path for her?

One comment on “Life Skills: Teach my daughter about paying the bills

  1. Good lessons … today’s teens actually can go online to find the answers to many of these situations. But it’s always far better to get a personal insight into them from dear ol’ Dad.

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