Bills: the necessary evil we all must face at least once a month. Whether you have years of experience paying for them or not, it can often be an incredibly anxiety-inducing experience to open that envelope or log in to that account to check how much you need to pay and by when. Bills can unfortunately be too easy to put off, and the consequences of doing so are always more trouble than just paying them on time.
Anxiety around bills can start a vicious cycle. It will likely cause you to miss some due dates, incur late fees which increases the overall cost of your bills, negatively impact your credit, and generally reinforce and increase your anxiety, making the cycle start over and intensify. It happens to all of us at some point, so don’t feel too bad. Here are some tips and advice that will help you to take back control of your bills and lessen the burden of bill anxiety.
Set up auto-pay
This one is a lifesaver. For the most part, regularly occurring bills like utilities, internet, and loans have options for automatically taking what you owe monthly from your bank account. Auto-pay works best on bills where monthly costs don’t fluctuate too much. However, if you are super tight on money, and feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck, auto-pay is not the best option, as the risk of over drafting an account can be higher.
Use a credit card for certain bills
If you need to use the credit card, don’t use it for anything frivolous. In other words, use it only to pay for things that are recurring and necessary, like utilities or groceries, or an affordable monthly car payment. Avoid buying drinks with friends or buying new clothes at that thrift boutique in the trendy part of town. Ideally, you will have money set aside for these necessary costs anyway, so using the credit card to pay for them will also help boost and maintain your credit score.
Organize your bills
Don’t leave your bills scattered around your dining room or coffee table along with all your other mail. Set up a neat and organized space specifically for organizing your bills. Try arranging them by due date and type, and get into the habit of opening them immediately, and noting due dates on a calendar.
Calculate the Total cost of monthly bills
After you’ve organized your bills by order of priority and cost, go ahead and add all of them to get an idea of your total costs for the month. Once you get an idea of how much you will be spending in total on bills, you will be able to more effectively strategize how you will use the rest of your money. This money could be used to paying off less urgent expenses or place into savings. Having a clear understanding of your income flow is crucial to curbing anxiety and feeling in control of your finances.
Sign up for bill reminders
Setting up bill reminders is another way to take control of your bills and reduce anxiety. This will help you remember when all of your bills are due.
If you’re paying for bills online and the remainder is unavailable, you can set up bill reminders yourself on a bunch of different apps. Mint is a popular app that helps you keep track of income, spending, and bills and it has an easy and robust interface for setting up bill reminders.
Create a calendar for bills
Along with bill reminders, setting up a separate calendar dedicated to your bills is another way to keep track of everything. Having an easy-to-glance-at, bird’s eye view of all the bills in your life will do a lot to alleviate anxiety. Whether this is a separate Gmail calendar or a physical one, give this a shot – you’ll notice a difference.
If you don’t have a car, odds are you are going to want one at some point. Aside from the make and model, it is important to consider the monthly costs of a vehicle. Sit down and do some research regarding future payment amounts. This car payment calculator is a lifesaver and will help tons in financial planning. Once you calculate the recurring costs of your vehicle, be sure to plug that information in into your calendars, apps, and online reminders.
Most of the time, anxiety stemming from paying bills is rooted in having a tight budget. If you feel like you are struggling month to month, it might be time to sit down and evaluate your spending history.
If money is tight, spend more time cooking at home and less time eating out. There are also likely some subscription services that you pay monthly that you can do without for a bit. Cutting back on unnecessary spending might suck for a little bit, but the amount of money you will save will be worth it, and once you are able to get back on track budget-wise, you can always re-subscribe.
Following these tips will help to ease the stress brought on by the end of the month. Being proactive by making a calendar or prioritizing expenses allows you the confidence of knowing you are prepared for when those bills come in the mail. Say goodbye to bill anxiety and end of the month stress for good!
– Sam C.