Many Americans struggle to pay bills on time for one simple reason: they never learned how. Learning good financial sense isn't always taught like how to ride a bike or how to do your own laundry. If you aren't paying your bills on time regularly, you may have already had your fair share of dealings with debt collection or abusive debt collectors. It's not too late to learn.
How would you like to pay your bills on time and save money in the process?
The very first step in paying your bills on time is actually recognizing what bills you have to pay. You may find that you actually don't need a higher paying job or to win the lottery. With some organization and a little planning, paying your monthly bills can be actually satisfying. Here are the steps you need to take to get organized:
- Write down every bill you have - This will include mortgage or rent, utilities, internet, phone, TV, cell phone, student loans, car payments, insurance, credit cards and other miscellaneous.
- Write down other normal monthly/bi-weekly/annual expenses - This will include groceries, gas, annual fees on credit cards, car registration and other expected expenditures.
- Write down the due dates of every bill - Sort your spreadsheet or your bill paying schedule by the due dates of the bills.
- Designate a "bill area" - Set up paperless billing, if it's available, or otherwise keep all bills in a particular location so they will always be accessible.
- Check & Double-check - Sometimes bills may get lost in the mail or send to your spam folder. Check your list of bills that are due and double-check that they were received and paid. You may have to contact the business to find out why a bill is missing instead of waiting to receive the next month's bill and you're a month behind.
Once you determine which bills you have and when they are due, you will have a better idea of how to pay. If you find that you need to move monthly due dates in order to cover certain bills on time, contact the company and ask. If you find that your bills are more than your income, cancel unnecessary items temporarily. Perhaps you can turn cable back on once your credit card bill is paid off. Or call the cable, phone or internet providers and ask if they have any offers that lower your monthly bill.
Now that you are better organized and understand which bills you have to pay, paying bills doesn't have to be quite as stressful. You'll have set aside days to pay bills, you will know where your bills are located and you will know when they are due. There are a few options available to help get the bills paid efficiently:
- Pay bills as they arrive - One way to always ensure that bills are paid on time is to pay them as soon as they are received. If you already know that the bills arriving correspond with the receipt of your paychecks, this option may be available to you.
- Automate, if possible - If you can automate any payments, such as rent, mortgage or other bills, do so.
- Schedule dates to pay bills - Set aside days of the month that you will sit down and pay bills. Add these dates in your calendar, scheduler or as phone reminders. These dates may be twice a month, the 10th and the 25th, as an example and depending on when you receive paychecks, to ensure that bills are covered and paid on time.
- Pay online or by phone - Many businesses now make it easier to pay online. Most banks also have the option of paying bills through their portal. Paying through your bank may be easier since it's all in one location but keep in mind the amount of time the bank will take to pay the bill. If a bill is coming dangerously close to being due, it may be best to pay through the business directly, either by phone or online. Also, keep in mind that if you're mailing a bill, you should give some time for the mail to travel to its location, especially if there are holidays involved.
- Apps or Software - There are numerous apps and software available to set up bill reminders or to keep up with your finances. Entering your bills, due dates and expected monthly income and expenses in a financial program may give you a clearer picture of where you can save money or make better spending choices.
Once the bills are paid, and on time, your monthly late fees will disappear. If you automate your mortgage, as an example some homeowners choose to pay half their mortgage twice a month, you can build more equity in your home. Credit card companies may be more willing to offer a lower interest rate because you are paying regularly and on time. At the very least, you'll avoid an interest rate hike on your credit card by paying your bills on time.
You Can Do it!
Debt collection and late payments is a widely known American problem. Student loan debt and medical debt causes many consumers to find themselves in a pinch while others are simply overwhelmed with trying to make ends meet. The good news is that paying your bills on time can help to rebuild credit and allow some breathing room. Your financial stress can be decreased as you feel some control over your money situation. While debt collections does affect credit, you can rest easier with the understanding that your future credit applications will show financial responsibility. Finances can add stress to other areas of your life so paying bills on time, dare we say it, just might make you a happier person.