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Gas, electric, water, cell phones, cable, streaming services and credit cards: There's a long list of expenses the average household has to pay each month.
Knowing how to manage bills and keep track of due dates can sometimes be tricky, but it's an important part of managing your personal finances. Forming the habit of paying bills on time may even help you better handle a financial emergency or prepare for retirement.
If you don't have a system in place yet for managing bills, here are five things to consider to help make sure your bills are paid on time.
1. Stay Organized
Keeping track of the slew of paper invoices or digital statements from different service providers or creditors can sometimes make paying bills feel overwhelming.
Organize Your Paper Statements in Easy Place
For better bill management, it can be helpful to wrangle all your statements and get organized before you do anything else. One strategy is to keep your paper statements in a single, easy-to-find place, such as a tray on your coffee table or a specific kitchen drawer. If all your bills are digital, you could create a special folder in your email inbox where you save all these statements.
Designating a specific place for all your bills can help you stay organized and know exactly where to find the information you need when payments are due.
2. Use Lists & Apps
Another approach you could take is to organize bills using a spreadsheet. This way, you can consolidate all the information you need in one place by listing the name of the bill, the due date, the amount due and the date you paid it in the spreadsheet.
Consider a Bill-Paying App or Online Bill Organizer
If you'd prefer a more dynamic way to manage bills, you might consider a bill-paying app or online bill organizer. These types of apps offer the ability to link your bank account and your online accounts for utility companies or other entities. They can even send you alerts, such as if there are insufficient funds in your bank account and you have payments due, so you can transfer money into your account to cover your bills. Many of these apps also let you pay your bills or schedule payments directly from the app to help avoid late fees.
3. Keep Track of Due Dates
Besides an app or spreadsheet, there are two other simple tools that can help you figure out how to manage bills: a calendar and bill payment reminders.
Use a Calendar
Marking all your due dates in a paper calendar that you hang in a high-traffic, highly visible place in your home (such as the kitchen or front entryway) may help give you a visual reminder that due dates are approaching. You could also do the same thing with the calendar app on your phone.
Set Bill Payment Reminders
Along with calendar reminders, you can try setting bill payment reminders with different companies. This way, you'll receive either email or text alerts several days before your bill is due. Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so paying your bills on time can help you maintain a good credit score — especially if you plan to buy a home or car, sign up for a new credit card, or take out a business loan in the future.
4. Establish a Bill-Paying Day
It's normal to set aside time to do regular tasks such as going to the gym, cooking dinner, or doing laundry — but what about designating time for managing your personal finances?
It can be helpful to designate a day to sit down and pay all your bills. Obviously, due dates differ — with some bills due either at the beginning or end of the month. If this is the case, consider picking one or two specific days each month (for example, the 1st and the 15th) and setting aside 30 minutes or an hour to schedule online payments or mail payments.
5. Take Advantage of Auto-Pay Options
If you're in a financial position where you can maintain a constant balance in your bank account, enrolling in auto-pay may be a good option. With so many different obligations and responsibilities, it can be hard to remember every single recurring billing date. Auto-pay allows you to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to bill paying so you never miss a payment.
You likely can enroll in auto-pay separately with many of the different companies you pay every month, such as your mobile phone carrier. Some banks even offer online bill pay services if you have an online banking account with them. You might consider taking advantage of this option to cross several things off your to-do list all at once.
6. Getting Your Finances in Order
Paying your bills on time is an important part of maintaining good financial health. Establishing good bill-paying habits can help you better manage your money, stay on budget, and save for long-term goals such as retirement, buying a new home or paying off student loans.
While there are bills you have to pay every month, you also shouldn't forget to pay yourself first. Just like you do with your bills, consider designating a day every month to put money into your savings account. Giving every dollar a job — whether it's paying a monthly bill or building your emergency fund — can help you stay in good financial shape for years to come.