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How to Manage Household Bills the Smart Way and Save Money

OneDox revolutionises household administration
OneDox revolutionises household administration (Photo: OneDox)

Keeping track of bills is time consuming and no fun for anyone. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to manage household affairs the smart way. It’s so easy.

The Background

A friend of mine is a disaster recovery manager for one of the largest employers in the world. It’s mission critical stuff and he ensures the business continuity of the organisation in the event of all manner of potential catastrophes.

He’s probably even got a business continuity plan to deploy in event of a zombie attack!

Little surprise was it, then, that he applies similar thinking to his domestic affairs. He tells me of his system for storing bills, for example.

Fujitsu PA03656-B301 Scan Snap iX500 Document Scanner
Fujitsu PA03656-B301 Scan Snap iX500 Document Scanner

His method is to digitise every household bill that he receives by scanning them and storing them electronically. He always retains the latest physical paper bill, be it for gas, electricity, water or council tax. All older bills are securely shredded.

This got me thinking. I’ve already opted for paperless billing where possible. I seemed to be receiving far too many envelopes through the letterbox such that they’d go unopened for weeks, months, dare I say it even years in some cases.

I knew that it was much more efficient and environmentally-friendly of me to receive all of my bills by email and to not open those instead. 

Though that’s still not ideal.

If only I could find the time, I could gather together the various emails and download the PDFs into DropBox. I could buy a ScanSnap to digitise the remaining paper. 

That said, I could just spend a lot of time doing this.

A Problem Solved

Smart people dont work for computers They get computers to work for them
Smart people don’t work for computers. They get computers to work for them (Photo: Matthew Henry, Lic. CC)

Smart people get computers to work for them. I like to think I’m smart at least sometimes. Whilst the idea of a smaller filing box and disaster proof household bills is appealing, I’m just not prepared to put the time in to scanning paper.

OneDox solves that problem for me.

Imagine OneDox as an electronic dashboard of your household bills and you’re pretty much there. Though it is much cleverer than this.

How it Works

OneDox makes managing bills effortless
OneDox makes managing bills effortless

OneDox links to your existing household utility accounts and draws in data from each new bill and displays that information visually for you. You’ll get a bar chart of past bill values, for example.

OneDox shows the account expiry date, analyses spending and proposes potential savings to be made by switching.

Bills are viewed in the OneDox account and the PDFs can be automagically downloaded to a DropBox or Google Drive folder each time a new bill is issued. This is done without any intervention necessary from the user.

OneDox emails periodic information as regards actions to be taken, such as renewals of car tax or switching to a better energy provider to save you money.

What OneDox Works With

OneDox currently works with gas and electricity providers, mobile phone providers, broadband and home phone providers and DVLA for vehicle tax and MoT information.

OneDox specifies a list of providers with whom it is compatible and is actively working to bring on new companies.

Water companies are in the pipeline. 

Adding Accounts

To add a new account click the  Add Account button then choose the account type
To add a new account, click the + Add Account button, then choose the account type

To get the OneDox dashboard up and running, you’ll need to know the account usernames and passwords of your utilities. You may also add one or more vehicles, using the vehicle registration number, in order to be reminded of vehicle tax and MoT test expiry dates.

It is currently possible to connect the following services:

  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Home phone
  • Broadband 
  • Mobile phone
  • Vehicle tax
  • Vehicle MoT

To add a service, click the + Add Account button and then choose the type of account that you wish to add to the dashboard, for example Gas & Electricity.

Choosing a gas or electricity account to add to the OneDox dashboard
Choosing a gas or electricity account to add to the OneDox dashboard

The great thing about OneDox is that you can add two different suppliers if you don’t buy gas and electricity from the same source. Of course, you’ll just add the one account if you purchase dual-fuel from one supplier.

OneDox does not currently cater for all suppliers. If a supplier is not currently available, there is an option to inform OneDox so that they can include that supplier on their roadmap.

Note, OneDox does not currently include water utilities though this is on their roadmap for addition in the future.

Dashboard

The OneDox dashboard gives an overview of household administration
The OneDox dashboard gives an overview of household administration

The OneDox account dashboard present information in an easy-to-understand format.

It gives a Health Score, in my case 80%, that is calculated by areas in which OneDox believes it can save you money. In my case, I need to look at the gas and electricity costs.

Under the To-Do section, it provides further information showing how much money I could save and where. In this example, I’m paying £287 too much with the energy supplier.

Under Accounts there’s a quick overview of the accounts connected to OneDox including my two cars. If OneDox sees that I can save money, or the cars are approaching tax or MoT expiry, I’ll be informed here.

Account Overview

By clicking the green hyperlinks it is possible to navigate around the OneDox system, or use the menu navigation at the top of the page.

Clicking through to an account gives a visual representation of billing over the last 12 months. This makes it quick and easy to understand what is happening with an account.

OneDox shows you a summary of account activity and contract information
OneDox shows you a summary of account activity and contract information

OneDox will attempt to identify the contract expiry date—if not, you can add this manually—so that it can keep an eye on the best deals for you. 

Other useful touches are displaying the account number and providing a hyperlink to contact that particular provider. It saves you having to hunt around for contact information.

Click on a bar in the bar graph for a preview of that bill and ability to download the PDF of that bill
Click on a bar in the bar chart for a preview of that bill and ability to download the PDF of that bill

Hovering over any one of the bars on the bar chart displays the bill date and total value. Click on a bar and a summary of that particular bill will be displayed. 

A preview of the bill will be shown and a button will provide easy access to download the PDF of the bill from that particular supplier.

Automate Filing: Cloud Document Delivery

Cloud Document Delivery automagically saves new bills to Dropbox andor Google Drive storage
Cloud Document Delivery automagically saves new bills to Dropbox and/or Google Drive storage

Any decent disaster recovery solution will incorporate off-site storage and OneDox is no exception, even if it is just a household bills aggregator and not a business continuity service.

The benefit of this is that it frees you from the email inbox as a repository of difficult-to-find PDF attachments that may one day come in useful.

No longer is it necessary to search large mailboxes full of information to find that bill that you need for something. Instead, OneDox automates the process of storing PDF bills.

By connecting OneDox to either Google Drive or Dropbox, each and every bill is backed up to a dedicated folder, in the chosen service, in the cloud. 

This removes the necessity to scan in pieces of paper, name them and file them somewhere. It even removes any requirement to search emails and remember to save the PDF attachment.

OneDox Helps in Getting Better Deals

OneDox can help take the pain away from searching for better deals
OneDox can help take the pain away from searching for better deals

OneDox is an extremely helpful and useful service yet it comes at no cost. 

That’s because it analyses your bills and compares what you’re paying with the rest of the market. It makes no-obligation recommendations where it believes you will save money.

OneDox receives a commission each time it switches a customer to a new supplier. It shows customers how they can save money by switching suppliers and OneDox makes the process easy.

The great thing is that this is not in-your-face. It’s there if you wish to take advantage of the money saving opportunities. Alternatively, just use OneDox as a handy dashboard of household bills.

Security

Security is an important consideration for any aspect of online life, not least the running of various accounts, be that bank, utility, email or social accounts.

OneDox says that it treats security as their highest priority using industry standard measures and end-to-end encryption. They have an FAQ and a Data Privacy Policy that you can review.

OneDox is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Staying Informed

Stay informed with the iPad or iPhone apps andor receive email notifications
Stay informed with the iPad or iPhone apps and/or receive email notifications

OneDox keeps you informed by sending periodic emails with updates and important information. It can email you once a week with a reminder on money-saving opportunities with existing accounts. If that does not suit you, the email notifications can be customised or stopped altogether.

OneDox is available as apps on iPhone, iPad and Android devices, so that you can keep the dashboard somewhere easily accessible. 

Conclusion

I’ve yet to see my business-continuity-disaster-recovery friend since he told me about his home system for bills. When I do, I’ll be telling him about OneDox.

Not only does OneDox save you time, it makes suggestions that could save you hundreds of pounds each year, it automatically backs up the bills that you receive and it makes account information easily accessible.

The fact that you can have this fully up and running in less than an hour makes it a no-brainier when it comes to managing household affairs. Oh, and I’ve saved myself the £380 cost of a Fujitsu PA03656-B301 Scan Snap iX500 Document Scanner.