When you are dealing with an influx of utility bills, credit card statements and other debts each month, it can be difficult to organize your finances and ensure you meet all of your payment deadlines. If you struggle with keeping track of your bills, the authors of Equifax, share the following methods that may help:
1) Store your bills in one place. Whether you choose to receive electronic or paper statements, the important thing is to keep all your bills in one accessible spot. If you receive both, print out digital statements and place them with the paper ones in a folder. Then keep that folder along with other important financial documents in the same place. If you organize your bills digitally, scan all paper copies and store the files on your computer’s hard drive or upload them to a cloud storage platform. If you receive all online payments, create a folder within your email to store alerts and digital receipts. Plan to keep statements and related documentation for three years from the date paid for easy reference.
2) Open all your bills as soon as they arrive. It may be tempting to ignore electronic invoices, throw away letters from bill collectors, or toss unopened bills into your junk drawer, but none of these will just disappear. Open all mail from your utility and credit card companies as soon as they arrive to see what you owe. If you are receiving a notice outside of your usual billing cycle, the company could be writing about an important service change or to inquire about a late payment. Prepare against any potential disagreements by knowing all the information you can ahead of time.
3) Evaluate your expenses and your budget. Figure out a consistent time of the week, or month, and set aside a little bit of quiet time to bring yourself up to speed on your financial state. Review your monthly bills and know when each one needs to be paid, how much you owe and whether these amounts are consistent with what you typically pay. If you notice that a bill is significantly more than what you normally pay — for example, your gas bill for the month is especially high — do your best to discover what the source is. For utilities such as gas or electric, changes can be seasonal and relative to the amount of energy needed to warm or cool your home. Other expenses such as cable and internet are generally steady from month to month; a higher bill might indicate a service change that can be negotiated back down, but only if you are aware of it. This is also an appropriate time to assess the total payment amounts for your loans and other debt. If you owe less than you budgeted for utilities or other recurring expenses, consider using your spare income to make additional payments on existing debt.
4) Decide which bills you can pay online. If you are comfortable making payments using our Electronic Bill Pay service, sending electronic payments to your utility and credit card companies is a quicker and more efficient method as opposed to mailing paper checks. E-payments are an excellent option if you are more of a digital person or cannot stand clutter. Additionally, you decrease the chance of identity theft if by chance someone would rummage through your outgoing mail and steal your enclosed check, not to mention the savings on postage.
Remember: Missing bill payments can eventually cause late fees and other penalties. In the case of credit cards or loans, it could negatively impact your credit scores. To avoid these unfortunate situations, find a system of organizing and addressing bills that works best for you and then focus on keeping pace with everything that arrives each month.