I'm going to make a big assumption here and say that the majority of GradMoney's readers are responsible with their money and be sure to always set aside the appropriate funds for their monthly bills. If this is you, great! If this is not you, why the heck not?
I kid, no judgments here: staying on top of your bills is one of the hardest parts about being an adult, and it's something that never seems to end. I was inspired by an article from Business Insider, that meant to highlight that it is never to late (or too early for the new year) to get your money management skills in order - especially when it comes to paying your bills. Below are 5 methods that people usually use when paying their bills, but with these in mind I expand a bit on how you can make these techniques work even better!
Which one do you identify with? Comment below and let us know what you think!
1. 'Set it and Forget it'
Ahhhhh the Ron Popeil system of life: make a plan, make it automatic, and leave it alone to do its thing. This is a strategy that usually works for individuals who have consistent spending habits and who also have a good financial cushion (savings) in case their bills happen to run higher than usual. While this is nice for taking a lot of the effort out of money management, it is not a perfect practice. Sometimes individuals forget that not everything can be automated (such as transfers from one account to another to prevent overdraft charges, one-off expenses) and due dates can be accidentally forgotten. What's the solution? Before automating your bill paying, be aware of what factors can and cannot be automated to be sure you never miss a payment (which is incredibly important for making sure your credit score stays strong).
2. Credit Card Points
For the individual who has a REALLY good handle on using credit cards and are able to pay back what you owe each month, it's possible to charge all recurring expenses, including rent and utilities, and rack up rewards points. There are plenty of people I know with dozens of credit cards that use them to rack up millions of free flights and take trips all over the world. However, such a strategy can get tricky if you use the same card for both recurring expenses AND discretionary spending. A word to the wise for anyone charging everything to a credit card: you need to be completely sure that they have enough cash flow to be able to stay out of the red each month - otherwise, DON'T DO IT.
No, not people, I mean your own spending habits. If you like a hands-on approach with your money, you may be using sites like Mint.com to track your spending and make budgets for yourself in different categories. This can be challenging for slackers and people who aren't too detail-oriented. However, learning new apps or attempting to break down your spending habits into broader categories and then breaking them down further will help you create very specific budgets for yourself. For example, you may have a budget category now called "Travel" when that category can be broken down further to "Trip to Japan in 2019."
4. Pay As You Go
Some folks waste no time when it comes to their bills, and they pay them immediately as they come up. While this is definitely being responsible, it does help to be aware of a few things, namely it is smart to periodically take a look at your long-term spending habits so you don't end up hit with any major surprises that you're not equipped to handle. Bills can vary from month to month and this can lead to surprises in the form of overdrafts or dipping into savings to cover payments.
5. Pay What You Can
This is the least-advised strategy yet is the most commonly used by millions of Americans. Paying what you can on a month to month basis definitely ensures that you have money to feed yourself at the end of the day, but generally it means getting into debt and staying in debt for many years. These individuals would benefit from direct help with their money, but they should also be better about asking the following questions: How much is coming in? How much do I owe? How much do I pay myself? And what do I do with what's leftover? -- answering these will put you on the right track to better financial stability.