This is for those perpetually disorganized. You know who you are. You are always late in paying bills, but not necessarily for lack of money. Instead, you are late simply because you've failed to develop a successful system of paying bills that works. Most of us are inundated with junk mail every day. It's this abundant arrival of paper on a regular basis that makes the process of going through mail a bit daunting. Here are some easy-to-follow steps that will not only help you to pay your bills on time, but will also help you de-clutter your life.
- Change your behavior. Instead of dropping your mail on a table with your keys as you walk into your house, sort through your mail near your shredder and your recycle bin. Make three piles:
Separate out your keep pile. Remove your bills from the magazines, cards, and letters. Place your bills in a simple box or file that is near your desk, computer, or an area where you sit down to pay your bills. If you don't have a regular place or time where you sit down to pay your bills, create it now. Do not allow your bills to accumulate in random piles all over the house. This is a surefire way for you to lose track of your bills. If company arrives, the piles will be quickly collected and dumped into random drawers and forgotten about forever.
Open your bills right away. Even if you don't pay your bills right away, you should at least glance at them as soon as possible and note the due date. You think you have a handle on this information, but all too often you've either remembered dates incorrectly or remembered that a bill was due long after its due date.
Mark your calendar. Mark the due dates in your calendar and mark a reminder a week or so before your bill is actually due. If you use your computer's calendar, be sure to add an alert. Paying your bill on this "alert" day will help you avoid late fees. Remember, some companies have a grace period following a bill's due date. If your payment arrives within this amount of time, you're not charged with a late payment. However, other companies like credit card companies do not. A late payment is a late payment and will cause you to incur late fees and increase your interest rate. Therefore, you should get in the practice of paying all your bills on time.
Prioritize on payday. When payday hits, prioritize your money. Don't go buy those cute shoes or those great golf clubs you saw on sale if you haven't paid your bills yet.
Keep stamps around. I would guess that many have incurred a $20 late fee because they kept forgetting to buy a first class stamp. Stock up on stamps and even a couple extra envelopes.
Think about online bill pay. If you're always running low on envelopes and you barely have enough money in your budget for stamps, then consider online bill pay. Be warned, though, that sometimes your payment is instant and sometimes it takes a few days for it to get processed through the system.
- a keep pile (bills, letters, magazines, etc.)
- a recycle pile (circulars, ads, and generic mail addressed to "occupant")
- a shred pile (credit card offers or other advertising that has your address/personal information on it). Shred this pile immediately. (In less than five minutes, you've de-cluttered a small part of your life.)
Your system for organizing your bills may be a more streamlined version of this. However, if you are always fretting about late fees and if you are always remembering that your phone bill was due yesterday, then perhaps now is a good time to invest in an organizational strategy regarding your bills.
J. Richard Shanley writes "Molly's Brother On A Budget," an online journal devoted to helping him, and others, get spending under control.
Take the Next Step
- Make the time to save money. Separate your mail, make a file system, and open those bills.
- Consider on-line bill pay. Talk to your bank provider today.
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