11 Super-Smart Hacks to Never Forget a Bill Payment
A paper statement arrives in the mail. You place it on your mail pile with every intention to get back to it. You even make a mental note to do it in the next few days. But then life happens, and you forget.
Almost everyone has forgotten a bill payment at one point or another. When you do, you risk late fees and higher interest rates. In some cases, you could face delinquency and a black mark on your credit report. Yikes.
Next time, skip the late fees. Here are 11 helpful tips to help you stay on top of your payments.
1: Set up automatic payments
If you haven’t set up automatic payments yet, consider giving it a try. You’ll never forget a bill again, but always make sure you have enough money in your account to cover whatever payment comes due.
To pay a bill online, log in to your online account. Typically, when you select a new payment, there should be an option to set up recurring payments. Customize the automatic payment to fit each expense. For instance:
- When should the payment occur?
- How much will the payment be withdrawn?
- Which bank account, debit, or credit card will fund the payment?
Remember, automatic payments risk overdrawing your bank account if you lack the funds to cover the bill. One way to combat this is to set the automatic payment to withdraw only the minimum amount due and pay the rest manually. Another option is to schedule the payment for the day your paycheck usually is deposited to your account. This will help to avoid withdrawing payments when your account is low.
2: Create a bill payment calendar
A calendar with due dates is another option that can supplement or take the place of recurring online bill payments.
Use a digital calendar tied to your email address or a phone calendar. If you’re not tech-savvy, use a physical calendar. Better yet, use all three! Gather all of your recurring bills. Write down each due date in the calendar. Include the expected payment amount if you can.
Don’t stop there: Make sure to set up calendar alerts to remind you a few days before the payment is due and then again on the actual due date. For instance, a Google calendar has an option within each event to schedule a notification minutes, hours, days, or weeks ahead of the event or due date. Likewise, an iPhone calendar has the option to set two different alerts, days, or minutes before the event. This way, when you receive the reminder notification you can submit a payment if you haven’t already.
Make it a habit to refer to your calendar frequently to ensure you don’t miss an upcoming due date. Many people find it satisfying to cross off each successfully paid bill as the month progresses.
3: Use an app
In this digital age, why not rely on an app to track your due dates and payments? Set up the app and then receive alerts about upcoming payments. There are endless options available. Select one that suits your needs.
4: Make a checklist
Create a bill payment checklist to stay organized. Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or sticky notes, this method is key to making sure you don’t miss a payment.
List all of your monthly bills on the checklist. In the second column, write down when you receive your statement for each bill. In the third column, list the due date of each bill. If the bill is a recurring amount, list the expected payment amount in the fourth column. Finally, create a checkbox in the last column so you can mark whether or not the bill has been paid. Replicate this checklist each month to keep yourself on track for the year.
5: Opt-in for reminder texts
Did you know certain companies provide bill payment text reminders? This opt-in service can add another layer of protection against missing a payment.
“Ask your provider, whether it’s your cell phone bill or your car insurance, if they have text reminders,” says Noa Hoffman, a Certified Financial Planner.
“For example, Verizon has an opt-in that texts you with enough notice before the billing date to remind you when and how much will be charged,” Hoffman says.
6: Pay bills immediately
A good rule of thumb is to pay your bills as soon as you receive them. It’s easy to forget to pay a bill once you move on to another task. Out of sight, out of mind. So why risk it?
Try to pay each bill when you first receive a statement instead of putting it off until the actual due date. This decreases the chances of forgetting to pay the bill later.
7: Pay bills on payday
Never forget to pay bills by paying them on payday. When you receive your paycheck, pay off your bills and debts first. Refer to your bill payment calendar, checklist, or app to know which bills are coming due.
This method has a major benefit over recurring automatic payments; you are less likely to pay a bill without the necessary funds in your bank account, which helps to avoid overdraft or returned check fees.
“I've had paychecks come in a day late or other mishaps that would have wreaked havoc if I had autopay, because the money would not have been there,” Olson says. “Plus, having the bills out of the way first allows you to spend in other areas, with less stress.”
8: Negotiate one due date
Having different due dates for each bill can get complicated. Simplify your payments by consolidating them to a single date.
It’s a straightforward process to request a change to your due date. Call a representative or customer service number at each company, and make sure to have your account information on hand. Ask them politely to change your payment due date. Change the due date to the first of the month or whenever a majority of your other bills are due. It’s a smart idea to select a due date on or around when you receive a paycheck. This will ensure you have enough funds to cover all of your bills at once.
Now, you’ll only have a single due date to remember. Easy, right?
9: Check in once a week
It’s a healthy habit to start reviewing everything happening in your financial life, including your upcoming bill payments. Set aside a dedicated time each week for this financial check-in.
Create a recurring weekly alert to sit down and get your financial life together. During your check-in, take stock of your income, expenses, and financial goals. Devote one portion of the check-in to organizing your upcoming bill payments and note which bills need to be paid by the end of the week.
A weekly check-in is less tedious than a single, monthly check-in. Use this time to your advantage by keeping track of your day-to-day finances, like bill payments.
10: Keep billing information up-to-date
Recurring payments alleviate the hassle of paying bills, but you still have to manage your accounts. In fact, you should ensure your billing information is kept up to date across accounts.
If your bank or card information expires or changes, then your automatic payments will stop. If you aren’t paying close attention, you might be hit with a late payment.
Make a list of all of your automatic payments. Write down which bank account, debit card, or credit card is associated with each one. Refer back to this list and update each automatic payment with a new card or bank account information when necessary.
11: Organize your billing statements
Many people rely on a paper or digital billing statement. Receiving and organizing statements is a great way to stay on top of bills and account changes. In fact, you should make it a habit to check each billing statement for errors or price increases, even if you set up recurring payments.
If you notice an error or account change, call the company or financial institution and ask for a detailed explanation of the changes or request a correction. Follow up if your request is not implemented by the next billing statement.
Failing to make bill payments on time can lead to late fees and higher interest rates. These costs add up. Ensure you never miss a payment again with a few helpful tips, like setting up autopay and scheduling reminders.
Noa Hoffman is a Certified Financial Planner. Hoffman began her financial services career as a financial advisor for Ameriprise (formerly a division of American Express) and has since dedicated herself to finding innovative ways of making financial education more accessible through technology. Hoffman has also volunteered for Operation Hope teaching money basics — budgeting, checking and savings; the power of credit; and investments to local students in grades 4-12.
Bobbi Olson is a financial coach and hosts the CentsAble Chat Podcast. She focuses on breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle by teaching positive money mindsets, how to destroy debt, and reduce financial stress. Folks who work with her one-on-one walk away with a clear view of their financial picture and a budget that meets their specific needs, putting them in control of their financial lives.
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