Tackling your bills can be overwhelming, especially if you are already behind on payments. Practicing healthy bill-paying habits will help you catch up, get ahead, and stay consistent. Even if you are on top of things, this can help you stay on top of unexpected fees and reduce financial anxiety. No matter where you are at with your bills, it is a good idea to get organized and set you up for financial success down the road.
Make a budget
If you don’t already have a budget, making one will give you a snapshot of the money you’re spending vs. the money you’re saving. Go through your utilities, credit cards, rent, mortgage and any other loans you have. You can list expenses on a simple spreadsheet or notebook, or whatever is a convenient place to keep you organized. Though it may take some effort to make, having a budget is the most efficient way to stay on top of your finances consistently. With a budget, you are less likely to fall into debt, and you will be better at saving up for more substantial expenses like a vacation or a new car.
Designate a bill-paying station
Keep your bills in one place. Have physical and digital folders dedicated to your bills so that you always know where they are and what you have paid. It doesn’t have to be a large space – a small table in your kitchen or simply a basket will do. Designating a bill-paying station will help you access bills quickly when it’s time to pay and help you refer to bills you have already paid if something comes up.
Always open your bills
It can be tempting to avoid opening bills, especially if you are behind on payments, but it will never help your financial situation by postponing them. You don’t want to fall even more behind with subsequent late fees or miss additional payments you didn’t realize you had. Checking regularly will also help you keep expenses under control by making sure your bills are correct and avoiding fee increases. If you know you might miss a payment, you can call and ask if you have a grace period, which is a short window between when your bill is due and when you are charged a late fee. Try not to take advantage of this too often, but knowing your grace period will make it easier to catch up if you fall behind.
Mark your calendar
At least once a month, schedule a time for you to sit down to pay your bills. If you are only sitting down once a month to make payments, make sure you are paying them on time. To motivate yourself to get it done, reward yourself after you finish with something to look forward to, like a movie night.
Set up auto-pay
If you know you struggle with making payments on time, get ahead by setting up automatic payments. While autopay will ease the stress of the deadline and pressure of the task, you should make sure this doesn’t stop you from staying on top of your finances. Whichever way you pay your bills, you should still be monitoring your transactions at least once a month. This will help you make sure you are staying within your budget and that no errors are made, such as getting charged twice or an incorrect amount.
While paying bills can be daunting, adopting these habits will ease some anxiety, keep you on top of things and even save you money. Set a goal to practice some of these bill-paying habits for a month, and then see what habits you can keep up with to simplify your payments every month.