Paying Your Bills

Reviewed Aug 8, 2016

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Summary

  • Know what bills to expect, and when.
  • Give yourself plenty of time.
  • Keep a financial calendar.
  • Keep a check register.

Are you leaking money? That’s one way to think about small, unnecessary costs that can add up to big expenses over time. One example, maybe the most important, is late fees. These are tacked on to bills that you forget to pay on time.

Overdraft fees are close cousins to late fees. These get charged to your checking account when it runs out of funds to cover checks or debit card purchases. It is very easy to end up paying these if you don’t keep close track of what you’re buying and how much it costs.

Late fees and overdraft fees don’t just cost you money. They also damage your credit rating. So how do you prevent them? The answer is to get focused and get organized. Here are some tips for doing that:

Know what bills to expect, and when. Keep a log of when bills come in (for more on that log, see “Keep a financial calendar” below). Note two dates: when they show up in the mail and when they are due. If you get online bills, write down the dates when you get notices via email.

You may find that some bills show up well before their due date. Others need to be paid right away. The important thing is to know when you will need the money in your checking account to pay them. And be sure to record the bills that come in less often—like every six months.

Give yourself plenty of time. If you pay by mail, says author and budgeting expert Cathi Brese Dobler, do so at least a week before the due date. That bill has to be processed, not just delivered to the biller’s address, before it’s credited to you. Don’t expect a bill that arrives on a Friday to be processed until at least the following Monday.

If you pay online, take careful note of the expected delivery date. Whether you pay through your bank or pay the biller directly, you should see it somewhere on the website you’re using. Once again, don’t assume that your payment will get there the next day. Even online payments can take several days.

Should you ever delay paying? Only if “you know you don’t have enough in the [checking] account and you’re waiting to make a deposit,” says Dobler. If the overdraft fee would be bigger than the bill’s late fee, it makes sense to wait. But don’t make this a habit. You should not to be drawing down your checking account to the point where you have to pay anything late.

Keep a financial calendar. Once you know when bills are due and when you should send payment, you should find a place to write all that down. It can be a notebook, a wall calendar or a program on your computer. The important thing, says Kelly Rogers of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Orange County, CA, is that it be just for paying bills. Don’t mix bill reminders with shopping lists, medication schedules, or anything else.

Keep the calendar where you can easily see it. If it is on your computer, make sure it gives you reminders. If you use Outlook, for instance, you can set up reminders in the Calendar program. But don’t rely on an online calendar unless you spend a lot of time at your computer every day.

If you auto-pay any bills, put them in your calendar too. That way, you’ll know at a glance how much money you pay out in a given week or month. Make sure you record them in your check register.

Keep a check register, even when you don’t write checks. To avoid overdraft fees, you always should know what’s left in your checking account. So whenever you write a check, record it right away in your register. Do this for debit-card transactions and online payments, too. If you don’t have a checkbook with you, you should still carry a register. See if your bank will give one to go with your debit card.

And here’s another tip from Kelly Rogers for avoiding fees: Always carry some cash. You may need to buy something at a store that does not take debit cards and has an ATM machine instead. If it’s not a bank machine, says Rogers, it’s likely to ding you with a fee. The great thing about cash is that there’s no charge for using it.

Resource

To learn more about current rules on overdrafts, go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) guide at www.fdic.gov/consumers/overdraft/index.html.

By Tom Gray

Summary

  • Know what bills to expect, and when.
  • Give yourself plenty of time.
  • Keep a financial calendar.
  • Keep a check register.

Are you leaking money? That’s one way to think about small, unnecessary costs that can add up to big expenses over time. One example, maybe the most important, is late fees. These are tacked on to bills that you forget to pay on time.

Overdraft fees are close cousins to late fees. These get charged to your checking account when it runs out of funds to cover checks or debit card purchases. It is very easy to end up paying these if you don’t keep close track of what you’re buying and how much it costs.

Late fees and overdraft fees don’t just cost you money. They also damage your credit rating. So how do you prevent them? The answer is to get focused and get organized. Here are some tips for doing that:

Know what bills to expect, and when. Keep a log of when bills come in (for more on that log, see “Keep a financial calendar” below). Note two dates: when they show up in the mail and when they are due. If you get online bills, write down the dates when you get notices via email.

You may find that some bills show up well before their due date. Others need to be paid right away. The important thing is to know when you will need the money in your checking account to pay them. And be sure to record the bills that come in less often—like every six months.

Give yourself plenty of time. If you pay by mail, says author and budgeting expert Cathi Brese Dobler, do so at least a week before the due date. That bill has to be processed, not just delivered to the biller’s address, before it’s credited to you. Don’t expect a bill that arrives on a Friday to be processed until at least the following Monday.

If you pay online, take careful note of the expected delivery date. Whether you pay through your bank or pay the biller directly, you should see it somewhere on the website you’re using. Once again, don’t assume that your payment will get there the next day. Even online payments can take several days.

Should you ever delay paying? Only if “you know you don’t have enough in the [checking] account and you’re waiting to make a deposit,” says Dobler. If the overdraft fee would be bigger than the bill’s late fee, it makes sense to wait. But don’t make this a habit. You should not to be drawing down your checking account to the point where you have to pay anything late.

Keep a financial calendar. Once you know when bills are due and when you should send payment, you should find a place to write all that down. It can be a notebook, a wall calendar or a program on your computer. The important thing, says Kelly Rogers of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Orange County, CA, is that it be just for paying bills. Don’t mix bill reminders with shopping lists, medication schedules, or anything else.

Keep the calendar where you can easily see it. If it is on your computer, make sure it gives you reminders. If you use Outlook, for instance, you can set up reminders in the Calendar program. But don’t rely on an online calendar unless you spend a lot of time at your computer every day.

If you auto-pay any bills, put them in your calendar too. That way, you’ll know at a glance how much money you pay out in a given week or month. Make sure you record them in your check register.

Keep a check register, even when you don’t write checks. To avoid overdraft fees, you always should know what’s left in your checking account. So whenever you write a check, record it right away in your register. Do this for debit-card transactions and online payments, too. If you don’t have a checkbook with you, you should still carry a register. See if your bank will give one to go with your debit card.

And here’s another tip from Kelly Rogers for avoiding fees: Always carry some cash. You may need to buy something at a store that does not take debit cards and has an ATM machine instead. If it’s not a bank machine, says Rogers, it’s likely to ding you with a fee. The great thing about cash is that there’s no charge for using it.

Resource

To learn more about current rules on overdrafts, go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) guide at www.fdic.gov/consumers/overdraft/index.html.

By Tom Gray

Summary

  • Know what bills to expect, and when.
  • Give yourself plenty of time.
  • Keep a financial calendar.
  • Keep a check register.

Are you leaking money? That’s one way to think about small, unnecessary costs that can add up to big expenses over time. One example, maybe the most important, is late fees. These are tacked on to bills that you forget to pay on time.

Overdraft fees are close cousins to late fees. These get charged to your checking account when it runs out of funds to cover checks or debit card purchases. It is very easy to end up paying these if you don’t keep close track of what you’re buying and how much it costs.

Late fees and overdraft fees don’t just cost you money. They also damage your credit rating. So how do you prevent them? The answer is to get focused and get organized. Here are some tips for doing that:

Know what bills to expect, and when. Keep a log of when bills come in (for more on that log, see “Keep a financial calendar” below). Note two dates: when they show up in the mail and when they are due. If you get online bills, write down the dates when you get notices via email.

You may find that some bills show up well before their due date. Others need to be paid right away. The important thing is to know when you will need the money in your checking account to pay them. And be sure to record the bills that come in less often—like every six months.

Give yourself plenty of time. If you pay by mail, says author and budgeting expert Cathi Brese Dobler, do so at least a week before the due date. That bill has to be processed, not just delivered to the biller’s address, before it’s credited to you. Don’t expect a bill that arrives on a Friday to be processed until at least the following Monday.

If you pay online, take careful note of the expected delivery date. Whether you pay through your bank or pay the biller directly, you should see it somewhere on the website you’re using. Once again, don’t assume that your payment will get there the next day. Even online payments can take several days.

Should you ever delay paying? Only if “you know you don’t have enough in the [checking] account and you’re waiting to make a deposit,” says Dobler. If the overdraft fee would be bigger than the bill’s late fee, it makes sense to wait. But don’t make this a habit. You should not to be drawing down your checking account to the point where you have to pay anything late.

Keep a financial calendar. Once you know when bills are due and when you should send payment, you should find a place to write all that down. It can be a notebook, a wall calendar or a program on your computer. The important thing, says Kelly Rogers of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Orange County, CA, is that it be just for paying bills. Don’t mix bill reminders with shopping lists, medication schedules, or anything else.

Keep the calendar where you can easily see it. If it is on your computer, make sure it gives you reminders. If you use Outlook, for instance, you can set up reminders in the Calendar program. But don’t rely on an online calendar unless you spend a lot of time at your computer every day.

If you auto-pay any bills, put them in your calendar too. That way, you’ll know at a glance how much money you pay out in a given week or month. Make sure you record them in your check register.

Keep a check register, even when you don’t write checks. To avoid overdraft fees, you always should know what’s left in your checking account. So whenever you write a check, record it right away in your register. Do this for debit-card transactions and online payments, too. If you don’t have a checkbook with you, you should still carry a register. See if your bank will give one to go with your debit card.

And here’s another tip from Kelly Rogers for avoiding fees: Always carry some cash. You may need to buy something at a store that does not take debit cards and has an ATM machine instead. If it’s not a bank machine, says Rogers, it’s likely to ding you with a fee. The great thing about cash is that there’s no charge for using it.

Resource

To learn more about current rules on overdrafts, go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) guide at www.fdic.gov/consumers/overdraft/index.html.

By Tom Gray

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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