Paying bills definitely falls under one of life’s least fun tasks, but it’s an important one all the same. Having a bill-paying routine is part of maintaining healthy finances. Without maintenance or routine check-ins, bills and payments can quickly fall into chaos, leading to late fees, overdraft charges, and even damage to your credit score.
Need to do some organization of your bills? Before you start, remember that there is no right or wrong way to track your bills. Some people like apps, others like spreadsheets, some people like autopay, and others prefer to pay themselves. The important part is creating a system that works for you.
Here are some of the best ways to keep track of your bills and payments.
1. Make a cheat sheet
Start by making a list of all your bills and payments. Don’t forget to include annual, biannual, or irregular expenses like insurance, car maintenance, child-related expenses, or healthcare costs. Along with each entry, include the payment amount, how often it is paid, the due date, how they are paid, and what account the payment is pulled from. To keep things organized, consider using a spreadsheet.
It’s okay if you don’t have all this information right away; you can add as you go. The goal is to create a comprehensive document that has everything you need to know in one place.
- Turn your spreadsheet into a tracker by adding a column for each month of the year and fill it out as you go. This is great for keeping track of variable expenses that change from month to month and spotting any payment increases over time.
- Spreadsheets are easy to customize, so make it however you want. Use color codes, add countdowns – have fun with it!
- If spreadsheets are not your style, try a bill-tracking app like Mint, YNAB or Simplifi.
2. Consolidate due dates
It can be difficult keeping track of multiple due dates. If possible, make things easier by moving multiple bills to the same date. You can likely change the billing date through your payment portal if you pay online. If not, reach out to your provider and determine their policy for moving due dates. Keep in mind that moving due dates can cause a temporary change in your next bill. Be sure to get clarification from your provider on what to expect, if anything, so you can adjust your budget accordingly.
Or, you could simply choose to pay your upcoming bills at the time you get paid. Most people in the U.S. are paid about twice a month – either getting two paychecks a month for a total of 24 paychecks in a year, or paid every two weeks and get 26 paychecks in a year.
Whether you get paid twice a month flat or every two weeks, it can be helpful to allocate specific bills to your first and second paychecks of the month to ensure you have the money to pay the bills before they are due. Take a look at your billing due dates for all of your expenses and match them up with the paycheck that comes in prior to when the bill is due. For example, if your cell phone bill is due on the 20th of the month, fund that with your first paycheck of the month, and if your rent is due on the first of next month, fund that with your second paycheck of the month. This way you don’t have to remember when the bills are due on which day – just which bills you pay with each paycheck.
If you get paid monthly, it’s even simpler, because all of your bills will be paid from one paycheck. If your income is irregular, that can make it more challenging. In that case, setting up a specific fund for bills and pre-funding that with your typical monthly expenses may work for you.
3. Set reminders
Use your calendar to set reminders for when bills are due. Again, don’t forget to include non-monthly bills, which usually have higher payments. Even if you use autopay for most of your bills, setting up reminders is an excellent way to nudge yourself to check your accounts and ensure everything went through.
- If you pay a bill yourself, put the reminder a few days ahead of the due date. This will give you time for the payment to process and avoid potential late fees. It can take three to five days for a payment to finalize.
- Go through the entire calendar year and make a note of any due dates that fall on weekends or bank holidays. Funds will not transfer on these days, and you may need to adjust your date for that month. Automatic systems will deduct funds on the closest banking day, but checking manually is still good practice.
4. Use autopay
If you prefer convenience or are just a little forgetful, autopay is the way to go. This method does take a little setup in the beginning, but once you’re done, payments will automatically be drafted from your linked account, debit card, or credit card.
- You should check on autopay accounts regularly as part of a healthy financial habit. Automated systems are convenient but not perfect, and you still want to be mindful of how much your bills are.
- Some autopay systems let you customize your due date, allowing you to schedule payments that better align with your paycheck schedule.
- Autopay can’t detect if your account has enough money to cover a payment, meaning your account could be overdrawn or the transaction may get declined for insufficient funds. This could lead to late fees.
5. Read your payment policies
It’s always best to pay your bill on time and in full, but life isn’t always perfect. That’s why it’s important to know the details of your payment policies. You hope you never need them, but you’ll be grateful if you ever do. Specifically, you should find out the grace period for late payments, what the late fees are and how they’re calculated, and any additional interest you might incur.
It’s also worth taking some time to get familiar with any local and state laws in your area regarding late fees and grace periods. For example, in the state of New York, there are tenant protections that limit how much of a late fee landlords can charge for rent paid late, and the number of days of a grace period before rent qualifies as late. Laws change over time, so stay current, and be aware of the date that any new changes take effect.
- For easy reference, link your payment policies in your cheat sheet.
- If your payment is only a few days late, you might be able to contact your provider and get the late fee waived.
- Late payments may hurt your credit score, and for some, the longer the payment is late the more impact it can have.
6. Check-in regularly
As smart as technology can be, it can still make a mistake from time to time. Glitches happen, servers go down, payment methods can be removed from accounts, or cards expire. Even with electronic payments, you’re still responsible to get the bills paid.
That’s why it’s important to have continuous check-in with your bills and bank accounts. This will keep you aware of any accidental double charges, missed payments, changes in charge amount and anything else. The sooner you’re aware of a problem, the faster you can fix it.
According to Forbes, you should check your checking accounts twice a week. It might seem like a lot if you’re not expecting money to hit your account that frequently! However, this can help ensure that transactions successfully processed and gives you time to respond quickly just in case something doesn’t go through as you expected.
Keeping track of bills and payments can be challenging, but worth the time invested to get organized. Staying on top of your required payments can help you avoid fees and the stress of being behind.
Looking for a way to make handling those irregularly timed bills easier? You can set up Jars in Milli to stash away funds for dedicated purposes. Set up a Jar for healthcare costs, automobile maintenance, summer childcare, home repair – whatever is on your horizon. Contribute to the account on a regular basis based on your budget. Then, when an expense comes up, transfer those funds to your Milli Spending Account where you can pay directly with the Milli Visa® Debit Card. Download Milli from the App Store or Google Play and sign up today.
Keep reading on the Milli blog: