Tuesday, September 4, 2018

HOW WE DEAL WITH OUR BILLS & OTHER U.S. MAIL WHILE LIVING IN MEXICO

Traveling Mailbox LLC Simplifies Mail Forwarding
     We are frequently asked how we deal with our bills and mail now that we live in México most of the year. So, I decided it was high time I described the process we use. Hopefully this information will help others solve one of the technical difficulties of escaping the rat race north of the border.

     Traveling Mailbox LLC is a mail forwarding service that simplifies our lives while living and traveling in Mexico and the United States. Our method of using this handy service has evolved over the years to further simplify receiving mail and packages no matter where we are in our travels. But before I get into explaining how it works for us, let me tell you the first, most important step in simplifying mail issues while living in México.
     Most Important Step: Eliminate Bills! We sold our cars, sold our home in the U.S., paid cash for our motorhome, and stopped using credit cards. That took care of all mortgage and loan payment bills as well as all of the property tax bills, utility bills, and other high expenses that go along with property ownership in the U.S. (You might like to read more about that process in my article MONEYAIN'T EVERYTHING!: Our Road to a Simpler, Healthier Life”.) We even cancelled our U.S. cell phone contracts with Sprint and Verizon—no more bills. We bought an inexpensive Nokia 2 phone and use it with a month-to-month, pay-as-you-go H20 plan in the U.S. and Telcel in Mexico, making payments online.
Sold Our Home & Became Full-Time RVers, Minimizing Mailed Bills
     Even after extreme simplification of our lives, some U.S. mail is unavoidable. Most of it is junk and can be eliminated, but we don’t want to miss a few items such as refund checks and notices from the I.R.S. or Social Security. So, here are two mail forwarding options that work for us.

OPTION 1: Mail Forwarding from a P.O. Box to Traveling Mailbox LLC (This is What We Have Done for the Past 4 Years)
     Step 1: Keep a P.O. Box at a U.S. Post Office. We kept our P.O. Box in Oregon as our primary address when we moved to México. This worked fine while we were full-time RVers and still works while we live in Sayulita, México. But we have discovered that the U.S. Postal Service makes this rather cumbersome if you stay out of the country longer than six months at a time. Since we live in Mexico for about nine months each year, we’ve decided to switch to an easier method using Traveling Mailbox, described below in Option 2.
     Step 2: Sign Up for a Traveling Mailbox at https://travelingmailbox.com/ and complete the USPS 1583 Form. This is the easy part, , except that it must be notarized.


     Step 3: Complete a Mail Forwarding Request (Called "Change of Address" Form) with the U.S. Postal Service to have them Forward Your Mail to Traveling Mailbox. The best part of having your mail forwarded is that all of the junk mail gets discarded and recycled by the USPS. No More Junk Mail!
     The mail forwarding form can be completed online (with some frustration) at http://www.USPS.com using the following procedure: “Sign Up” for an account and then “Sign In” to the USPS website. Go to “Track and Manage”, holding your cursor over it without clicking, move your cursor down and click on “Change of Address”. Click “Get Started” near the top of the page and complete the form. (Put your P.O. Box into the Street Address line.) On the next page, click on “Temporary Move” and complete this form.
     The USPS will send you an email confirming your mail forwarding request and will include a Confirmation Code. This will only forward your mail for six months. If you want to extend your mail forwarding another six months, be sure to keep this confirmation code because you will need it to renew and extend the mail forwarding for the next six months.
     Step 4: Renew Your Mail Forwarding Request for the Second Six Months. As above, go to “Track and Manage”, holding your cursor over it without clicking, move your cursor down and click on “Change of Address”. This is the tricky part: To renew your “Change of Address” every six months, go almost to the bottom of the screen to "Have you already changed your address?". Click on “View or Edit”. Complete the information requested.
     Step 5 (IMPORTANT): Before Renewing for the third and subsequent Mail Forwarding requests, you must leave at least 45 Days between the time your second Mail Forwarding period expires and your third Mail Forwarding (Change of Address) request, or the USPS will not allow it.
     Okay, that whole rigamarole with the U.S. Postal Service has gotten old. We’ve gotten older, too, and we just can’t keep playing that game every six months. So, we’ve decided to go with Option 2, still using Traveling Mailbox, but eliminating our Oregon P.O. Box. It was time to get serious about simplifying this part of our life.
We Work Daily on Simplifying Our Lives
Option 2: Change Our Address to One of the Traveling Mailbox Physical Addresses (This is what we have decided to start doing)
     Most of our mail comes via email these days. But there are still a few items of U.S. mail that we need or want to receive, such as Jon’s new Medicare card that swapped his Social Security Number for a new ID number, my book copyright certificates, U.S. doctor’s bills (since they think email doesn’t meet HIPAA security requirements), our new motorhome registration, and new driver’s licenses. Traveling Mailbox provides a means to receive original documents when needed, forwarded to wherever we choose.
How Traveling Mailbox Works (Eliminating Our USPS P.O. Box)
     Step 1: Subscribe to a Traveling Mailbox. They use physical addresses, not P.O. boxes, so they can receive packages for you and have them forwarded to you wherever you are. Their Standard Address is in North Carolina, but we like to choose a Premium Address in the state we spend the most time in (it seems more logical to doctors, insurance companies, DMV, etc.). Premium Address options include Oregon, Florida, Arizona, and many more.
     Step 2: Complete the USPS 1583 Form, following the directions including having it notarized. (The USPS Form 1583 will be completed in your account after you subscribe).
     Step 3: Update your address with senders of your mail, giving them your Traveling Mailbox address. It may be a good idea to complete a USPS Change of Address at this time as well, so that mail from your old address will catch up with you through your Traveling Mailbox.
     Step 4: As your mail arrives, Traveling Mailbox will scan the envelopes and upload them to your online mailbox, notifying you by email that you have mail. You can then have them open each piece that you care about, scan it, and email you the contents in PDF format. You can also have Traveling Mailbox forward your mail anywhere, hold your mail, or have them securely shred it.
An Email Notifies Us That We Have Mail
I Told Traveling Mailbox to Open and Scan This One
     When we are in México, which is most of the year, scanned PDF versions of our mail is sufficient for our needs. We just save them in our computers.
     If an original document is needed, we have it forwarded to us when we arrive in the United States. Sometimes we have Traveling Mailbox forward mail to our children’s home when we are on our way to visit them. Sometimes we have them forward it to an RV Park we are staying at for an extended period. Once, Traveling Mailbox received a package from Amazon for us and we had it forwarded to General Delivery in the town we were staying in. It has worked great, using it that way!
I Asked Traveling Mailbox to Forward the Original Certificate to Me
     One thing we haven’t done is ask Traveling Mailbox to forward something to us in Sayulita, México, because it’s likely to get lost in the Mexican mail service. Maybe we’ll try that sometime. We have received two items mailed from the U.S. to our Sayulita address—my absentee ballot and a Christmas card, both three months late. Better late than never, I guess.

     I invite you to check out my Amazon.com Author Page to explore more of my stories about "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico".
    
                                                      In Canada: Amazon.ca
                                                        Mexico: Amazon.com.mx
                                                  United Kingdom: Amazon.co.uk
                                                         Australia: Amazon.com.au *
     I invite you to SIGN UP for my "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter", published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books.
     Thank you for reading my books and blogs. I look forward to hearing your comments and reviews.
Terry L Turrell

10 comments:

  1. We have used St. Brendan's Isle (SBI) Mail Forwarding Service in Florida since we moved to Belize in 2011. Even though we moved back to the US 18 months later, we have maintained this address as our legal US address, which has worked out well for our traveling lifestyle, which has taken us all over the US and back and forth to Mexico as well. Like you, we have eliminated most snail mail by simplifying our lives (no loans, etc). And SBI simply shreds any junk mail we receive, very similar to your Traveling Mailbox. We still use a couple of major credit cards when in the US, but in Mexico we use mostly cash. On occasion when we need to use a card, we use our Capital One Visa, which has no foreign transaction fees. We signed up for paperless billing, so don't receive any paper statements and pay our bills online. For the occasional important snail mail we do receive at our SBI box, we forward to a trusted family member, who will open and scan the innards, if needed. If it is something like new credit cards, we just pick it up the next time we're in the US. We have had mail sent to us all over the US from our SBI, including campgrounds and general delivery, but wouldn't trust it to get to us in Mexico, so we make do. All in all, it is working for us just fine, and none of the USPS forms you mention, other than the initial forwarding from our last address in the US to SBI, many years ago. Thanks for the post, as I know a lot of would-be nomads, travelers, and expats have this same question.

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    1. Thanks, Emily, for your great comments. Sorry I am late in replying to you--we've been camping and visiting family in the U.S. and are just now getting back to looking at email and snail mail. I was surprised that this article didn't have as many viewings as I expected. Maybe it was my timing of the post. Or maybe other nomads and expats figured out mail forwarding long before we did. Or maybe the younger people have eliminated their snail mail already. :) Maybe November will be a good time to repost it as travelers begin heading for warmer winter weather. I always enjoy your comments on my blogs. Thanks for writing!
      Terry

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    2. I hope you had a wonderful time visiting family and camping. We are visiting family at the moment as well before heading to Mexico (Yucatan state) on November 1.

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    3. Have fun, Emily! How long will you be in Mexico? Enjoy!

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    4. We have an Airbnb house booked for six months but plan to stay longer, so long as we like the area and are enjoying ourselves. We have elderly parents, so I can never say for sure how long we'll be able to stay away from the US. Gotta stay flexible!

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    5. Sounds like you have a great plan, Emily. Enjoy your time in Mexico. The nice thing is you, and we, can easily fly back to the U.S. and return to Mexico as needed. Have fun!

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  2. Terry, even though I don't travel and need this service Iread the whole thing and find it valuable to anyone who does. Very good article

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    1. Thanks, Mom! Sorry I'm a little late answering you here. I seem to have gotten behind on my computer work. It was more fun to go to the market for donut samples and fresh corn!
      Love,
      Terry

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  3. Tmobile cut us off, we have mexican cell but banks and cards want us number?????

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    1. Hi Connie, Can you clarify for me? What do you mean about banks and cards wanting your number?
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Terry

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