I CAN remember, pre-recession, how tidily I set up all my automatic payments for just about everything that involved a service, and then stopped thinking about them.

In the 2000s, everything was about minimising what you had to "think" about and, incredibly, we were encouraged not to "think" about what we were paying. It was all about taking the "hassle" out of paying bills. In this 21st century, we were fed a line that bill paying was complex and time-consuming, with so many things to think about. Apparently, we had better things to do. This is a sweeping generalisation from a middle-class guy, of course, but back in the days when there was more disposable income, you tended to get a little relaxed about it all.

But have you ever had an occasion when you've discovered you've been making automatic payments for something you stopped a while back?

I've noticed there is now a greater market for the old-fashioned style of payments. This is particularly noticeable with internet power broker companies like PowerShop, which allows you, in an almost primitive fashion, to go shopping for chunks of power. It expects you to step outside, in the cold, to read your own meter.

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What's pleasing about the system, even though it involves more work for me, is I now feel directly connected - and hands-on responsible - for every scrap of power used, and the money I'm going to spend to keep me warm. I can see the charts, I can see the cause-and-effect. I can go bargain-hunting like a shopper exploring the Kapiti outlet stores.

I believe, in austere times, that people like to take back the action of paying, and welcome the time it takes to do it. I know regular payments are money in the bank for service industries, but it's my money, and right now I like the control. Service industries should consider this trend, because "brokers" are meeting my need for considered spending, when I choose.