Budgeting Must-Have: Bill Payment Schedule

Oh how I do love back to school. The kids are settled in, the routines are falling back into place. The dog has resumed his lazy day schedule.

This is the time of year I start looking forward. I find that my budget always seems to need some housekeeping right about now, and I’ve been looking through my files and tweaking a bit to make sure things run smoothly into the new year.

The first thing I did, was to review all of my bills. I’ve gone through them, updated them on my ‘Budget Sheet’, including amounts owing, monthly payments, and, in particular, the bills’ due dates. I always try to have a plan for paying my bills before they arrive. If my VISA bill comes in on the fifth, and is due on the 25th, I want to be ready for it. If I haven’t received the bill by the 10th, I go looking for it. And I make sure that my ‘due date’ for paying that bill is always at least 3-4 days ahead of the bill’s due date. This allows for my payment to actually get to the creditor on time. Paying bills late, by even two days, can leave a mark on my credit score. It takes one or two late payments to show up, and another twelve to twenty-four to correct it. And the whole time that late payment is showing on my credit rating, the company is charging me a higher interest rate. Watch for this; it’s important.

So once I’ve double checked that all of my payments are going to get to where they need to be on time, I transfer all of the dates on to a calendar. Some years the calendar is a list. Sometimes a notebook. And some years the calendar is just that: a calendar. One that I picked up from the car mechanic or the bank. I mark on the next few months which bills get paid – “Pay VISA” on the 20th, for example. And I put a big red ‘X’ through them as I go.

I make sure that weekends and holidays are accounted for. If my payment date falls on a Sunday, I make sure that I mark it on the calendar for the Friday before. I might be able to pay the bill online on Sunday, but the bank won’t clear it until Monday. I want to avoid setting deadlines on weekends and holidays.

This planning helps to trigger my memory when the date comes to make a payment. I can see ahead a few days and make a mental note that the next time I have to pay attention to my budget is next Tuesday, when I have to pay the hydro bill.

This is a great tool for my peace of mind. Once my plan is in place, I can go for days without having to focus on my finances. What a relief to be able to live my days without wondering if that cable bill needs to be paid. I know that I still have three days before I have to pay attention to anything. I can check on the cable bill then.

It’s a little tedious at first. And certainly, the more payments I have, the more complicated – and necessary – this little trick is. But it is worth the effort in the simple decrease in stress I feel over the constant vigil over my finances.

Do the prep. Take a break. Let your planning replace your panic. You’ll be glad you did.