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Clients' Bills Pay Off for Entrepreneurs

May 03, 1987|ANNE FITZHENRY | Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio — Tim O'Neil wants to pay your bills for you--for a fee.

He figures that there are two ways to make bill-paying easier--either make more money or find someone to take care of the task for you. Now he is paying his own bills, along with those of a dozen or so others.

O'Neil, 29, and Ed Koontz, 32, started EZ Budget, a bill-paying service, about 18 months ago. They work in a warehouse for a drugstore chain, and run the business from a spare bedroom in O'Neil's house here.

"One day I was thinking at work about services that were needed, and it just popped into my head--bill-paying," said O'Neil. "I hit Ed up on it, and the more we talked about it, it seemed like a really good idea to try.

"You don't even have to see your bills. You see only your receipts."

Change Billing Address

It works this way: The clients change their billing address to EZ Budget's post office box number, and pay Koontz and O'Neil a set amount twice a month. They pay the bills and send back the receipts.

"We get a total on their bills, add a service charge ($2 per check), and divide by two. On the first and 15th of the month, they make two even payments. If their bills are $500, they pay $250 on the first and $250 on the 15th," O'Neil said.

"With their statement, they see exactly what bills were paid, the amounts paid, the balance, if any, and then find out what their next two payments are.

"Any bills like the electric, if it goes up $5 or $10, we cover it and it is carried over to the next month."

For non-monthly bills, such as car insurance, they set up an escrow account and save some of the client's money each month for that.

Range of Clients

Clients range from a woman who works with numbers all day and cannot bear to sit down with her checkbook and pay bills, to a man who takes care of his elderly mother's finances.

"The majority of people do not like sitting down and paying them even when they have the money," O'Neil said. "We get calls from working couples (who can afford their bills) but don't have time (to pay them) and when they do, they're paying late fees.

"Or people who are gone a lot; when they get home, all the bills are there. It takes a while for people to understand our service and realize how much it can help them. They are skeptical of trusting."

They learned trust works both ways after losing $300 when one client skipped town.

Since then, they accept only money orders for the first six months, until they become more familiar with the client's financial history.

"All we are concerned about is paying bills on time. We don't care how much you owe, as long as you can make the payments."

The two made a small profit last year, and say it will take time to develop it into a full-time business.

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