Bills are a fact of life, but they don’t have to be a hassle or an anxiety each month. Following our 7 tips will help you pay your bills on time, which builds your credit and helps protect your financial wellness.
1. Consider automatic payments
Automatic payments can be very convenient – especially for bills that are the same amount each month. Check out our guide to automatic bill payments, which covers everything you want to consider before setting up automatic payments – plus how to use Patelco’s Bill Pay service. There can be some downsides to automatic payments, so be sure to consider those, too.
2. Change your due dates
Many service providers – like insurance companies and utility companies – will allow you to change your due date. If you find there’s a bill that comes every month when you have less cash, consider moving the due date closer to payday. Or if you find that you often forget about a bill that comes towards the end of the month, ask to get your statement or due date change to the beginning of the month.
What if your provider can’t or won’t change the due date? Set up your own due date. For example, if your car insurance is due on the 20th of each month, get in the habit of paying it on the 5th of the month instead. (This won’t work for all bills – especially those whose amount changes each month, or those providers who won’t accept payment until they send you the amount due.)
3. Make sure your bills are paid on time
This may sound obvious, but if you’re paying bills late this month you’re probably incurring late fees – which will make it harder for you to stay on top of your bills next month. Get in the habit of paying your bills on time, which will make it easier for you to keep on top of them over time.
4. Sign up for reminders, or create your own
Many providers who send electronic bills will also send reminders, either automatically or after you sign up for them. You can also easily create your own reminders with your smartphone calendar. Knowing what bills are coming up can help you better budget as you spend money each month.
5. Phone in payments that are almost due
If you’re getting down to the wire with a due date, don’t mail in a payment. Using Bill Pay when a bill is due the same day or next day can also be risky, so use an instant, pay-by-phone option if it’s available. This will help you prevent a late fee.
Even if the pay-by-phone option comes with a fee, it will probably be less than the late fee – and an on-time payment will prevent negative information being entered on your credit report.
6. Look at your historical bill amounts
To help you budget enough money to cover your bills each month, keep a record of your historical bill amounts. Many bills that vary in amount will have some seasonal or monthly consistency. For instance, this September’s electricity bill is likely to be similar to last September’s electricity bill, or at least to other bills from last fall.
7. Set up an account just for bills
If you find yourself struggling to pay for important bills each month – like your car insurance, electricity bill, and phone bill – consider setting up a checking or savings account just for bills. At the beginning of each month, or whenever you get paid, transfer the total amount you’ll need for bills into this special account (see #6 above, which explains how to estimate the amount you’ll need for bills). Then pay your bills from this account as they come due. If you really want to stay on top of your bills, consider depositing a little bit more than you expect to need each month – this extra amount will help cover any bills whose amounts spike unexpectedly.