These days, we’re all looking for ways to save money. Below I've describe a system to keep track of your bills, pay them on time, and eliminate those dastardly late fees. Sorry, it’s not a get-rich-quick plan, but it’s always great to save a bit of money … and be able to sleep at night!
- Designate a specific place to keep unpaid bills. Keep a file folder or basket in a convenient spot where you can drop bills as they arrive. If you receive them via email, set up an email folder to collect them. When a bill arrives, put it in the designated spot.
- Develop a regular schedule to pay bills. Handle your bill payments like many businesses do – assign a regular time to pay them (once a week or twice a month). Make a bill-payment appointment with yourself on your calendar and stick to your schedule.
- Designate a specific place to pay your bills. If you plunk down any old place, you’ll endure the frustration of hunting down a calculator, stamps, checkbook, and other supplies. Have a designated spot, and stock it with all the supplies you’ll need.
- Allocate enough time to pay your bills. If you can’t pay all the bills in one sitting, you’ll run the risk of forgetting to continue on another day.
- Review each bill for accuracy. It’s important to face up to each purchase you make, so you acknowledge where your money is going. Take time to match your credit card receipts to your statements, or at least review each line item on your credit card statement to ensure it looks reasonable. Follow the same process to match your debit card transactions with your bank statement.
- Record the payment of each bill. Whether you track payments in your checkbook register or on the computer, do it immediately! If you forget, you may waste time and money dealing with an overdrawn bank account. This is also an opportune time to reconcile your bank statement to make sure you have enough money in your account to cover your bills.
- Mail your payments so they arrive in time to avoid late fees. Either mail payments as soon as you’ve written the checks, or note the mailing date on the back of the payment envelope and add a reminder note in your calendar. If you’re paying electronically, you’ll obviously want to schedule the payment so it will arrive by the due date.
- File your bills and receipts right away … if you need to keep them. File your bill-paying paperwork right away, so you don’t accumulate a pile to file later. However, before automatically saving every receipt and bill, consider if it needs to be saved for tax purposes or in case you want to return an item. Toss or shred what you don’t need and file what you do need.
- Consider setting up automatic payments. You can make arrangements for most credit cards and some utilities to automatically take the amount due directly from your bank account. While this may save you time and eliminate the possibility of incurring late fees, you obviously need to be sure there’s enough money in your bank account to cover these payments. Another way to eliminate credit card late fees is to set up your card so the minimum amount due is automatically taken from your bank account – if you pay some other amount on the card before the automatic payment comes out, it will typically override the minimum payment. Of course, unless you pay your bill in full, you’ll incur interest charges.
Ready to take action? You can start today when the mail arrives. Here’s to saving money and reducing stress!