Pay your bills on time

It's all too easy to postpone paying your bills, but the sooner you pay them, the more money you'll save, Hamm writes. The key is developing a standard process for paying your bills.

Carlos Osorio/AP/File
In this July 2012 file photo, Neta Homier looks over bills in her home in Toledo, Ohio. Hamm recommends developing a system for paying your bills that ensures you consistently do it on time.

It seems like such common sense, doesn’t it?

You get a bill in the mail. It has a due date on it. You make sure to get the payment in the mail before that due date.

Sometimes, though, it’s not so easy. We forget about it. We miss a bill because money is tight. We lose a bill somewhere.

The late fees hit. The bill grows. If we don’t pay it quickly, some of the companies might report us to the credit bureaus, damaging our credit score. This causes other bills to grow, like (potentially) our insurance premiums.

Missing a bill costs us money. Keep missing that bill and it will cost a lot more.

There are few things you can do that will help your financial picture more than simply paying all of your bills on time. It helps you out in several different ways, from avoiding late fees to avoiding additional interest, from avoiding collection agencies to avoiding dings to your credit score.

The best course of action is to have a standard process for keeping your bills up to date.

Here’s how I do it.

Each day, when I get the mail, I put all of the non-junk mail in one basket. I’ll leaf through all of the mail, toss the obvious junk, put aside the magazines, and then put the remaining envelopes into the mail basket.

Once a week (or, at worst, once every other week), I sit down and process everything in the basket. If there’s a bill in there, I pay it right then using online bill pay. If there’s some other type of correspondence, I deal with that, too.

This simple process keeps all of the bills paid on time. There’s not enough of a span between receiving the bill and paying it for anything to become late. I generally just don’t worry about the due dates because they’re never close.

This simple routine keeps all of my bills up to date. No late fees. No credit dings. No accrued interest.

What if you can’t afford to pay them all? If you find that you can’t pay all of your regular bills, your life is giving you a screaming warning that you should re-evaluate how you’re doing things.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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