It’s the first of the month again, meaning that your monthly bills are due. So you retrieve them from your document organizer tray and sit down with your checkbook to make your monthly electrical, water, mortgage and cable payments. You then stamp them and drop them off at the post office so they can reach their destination. Then you relax, knowing that you got all your bills out on time, right?
Wrong. Just because your bills are postmarked on the due date, doesn’t mean that you’re paying them on time. For instance, it normally takes days for bills to get to their recipient via snail mail and may take even longer for check processing, which can result in a late payment. It’s estimated that 34 million Americans don’t pay their bills on time and that some 18 million don’t pay their bills at all. One thing to keep in mind is that whether your late bill payment is intentional or unintentional, it can have detrimental consequences. For instance, it may result in a “late payment” fee the next time you receive a bill. If late payments are a regular occurrence, it could even wind up negatively impacting your credit (it’s why one of the recommended ways for repairing your credit score is to make on-time payments). Other consequences of late payments include cancellation of service.
And here we all thought that just making ends meet and being able to pay the bills was enough of a hassle!
Thankfully, there are a number of solutions available to households who may struggle with on-time bill payments. The following require a little bit of legwork on your end, but can help save you a whole lot of frustration in the long-term:
- Contact Utility Company: Many households don’t pay their bills on time because they lack the sufficient funds to do so when the bills come due. There’s a solution to this problem, and it’s easy and hassle-free: Contact your utility company. That’s right, with a little bit of communication, paying your bills on time may never be a problem again. Most utility companies are more than willing to work with you so that your bill due dates coincide with when you receive your paychecks. This way, you don’t risk late fees or service disruption by paying your bills only when you can afford to do so.
- Auto-Pay: Although you may not be browsing them for the entertainment and news value that you do with other websites, your utility company is on the web too. Many of their websites offer the option of paying via a credit or debit card right there on the website, so you can bypass the snail mail method (as well as the rising cost of postage stamps) of bill payment all together. Many of these websites also offer you the feature of securely storing your credit card or debit card account numbers, so you don’t have to re-enter it every time you want to make a payment. And finally, these websites also commonly offer automatic payments, so you can have your bill amount automatically paid at a pre-set date each month. Making payments are a whole lot easier and efficient over the Internet.
- Set Alerts/Reminders: Another nice feature that utility companies typically offer are e-mail reminders to alert you of when your bill is due anywhere from a week or two in advance of the due date. Even if a utility company might not offer this feature, you can take this measure into your own hands. For instance, set an alert reminder on your cell phone for when you need to pay your bill in case you forget close to crunch time.
- Download an App: Not great at managing your money, thereby leading to late payments as a result of insufficient funds? There’s an app for that! There are a variety of money-managing apps that you can now download to your smartphone to ensure that you’re not spending outside of your means and can make ends meat. Such apps securely integrate with your bank account so you have a real-time report of what kind of funds you have left to work with at a particular time. It can come in especially handy around the time bills are due, as it can help justify whether you can purchase a particular item now or with your next paycheck to ensure you have enough to settle your bill.
Paying bills on time seems like an elementary task, but when other aspects of life get in the way, it can be anything but. Thankfully, with technology and a realm of amenities offered by utility companies, it doesn’t have to be the headache that it may seem. Thirty-eight million Americans don’t pay their bills on time. Chances are that at one time or another, you were or will be among this statistic. But by following the aforementioned tips, you can avoid the frustration and costs of being in that group for good.