By MELANIE LOCKERT
After getting settled into my new apartment in July, I went online to pay the internet bill. The website was acting up, and at the end of the transaction, I wasn't sure whether the payment had gone through. Reluctantly, I decided to move on with my day and hope for the best.
The next month, my internet provider told me that my payment was late and hit me with a $9 late fee. Apparently, the payment didn't go through. I was frustrated, to say the least.
Have you had a similarly frustrating experience when paying your bills or managing your finances? As part of National Moment of Frustration Day on Oct. 12, we're sharing five things you can do to make managing your finances easier.
1. Automate your finances to minimize late payments.
As soon as I was hit with the late fee, I signed up for auto-pay through my internet provider. Through auto-pay, I can rest easy knowing that my payments will be automatically charged to my credit card and I can avoid late payments.
Lee Huffman, founder of travel blog BaldThoughts.com uses this strategy to keep his finances in order while he's jetsetting to his next destination.
"My retirement investments are made automatically through my 401(k) at work, and my paycheck is automatically deposited into my checking account," Huffman says.
"And although I pay my credit cards off in full each month, I sign up to have the minimums automatically paid so I don't get hit with a late fee in case I get distracted and don't pay off the balance," he adds.
You can also consider prepaying some of your bills that come annually as well. For example, I recently paid my renters insurance for the whole year, instead of opting for monthly payments. This helps me stay organized and on top of my bills - and in the case of insurance, it might even lead to a discount.
Automating your finances can help you avoid late fees and missing payments, but there's one thing you need to keep track of -- that you have enough money in your account when the payment is withdrawn.
If you don't, you may avoid late fees but end up paying an overdraft fee, returned payment fee, or both.
2. Put due dates in your calendar.
If you're like me, if something isn't in your calendar, it doesn't exist. I've found that putting reminders in my calendar helps me stay on top of my payment due dates, especially for bills that I can't automate, and paydays.
Consider putting recurring reminders in your calendar (digital or physical) for the following:
- When your rent is due.
- When your credit card payments are due.
- When you get paid from your employer.
- When Netflix, internet, gas and electricity bills are due.
- When health insurance, renters insurance and other insurance bills are due.
Karen Cordaway, founder of MoneySavingEnthusiast.com, uses Google Calendar to track her bills' due dates. "I have it remind me a week before, a few days before and the day of. This way, I have ample time to pay my bills," Cordaway says.
This strategy works well for me, but you have to be disciplined about putting the due dates in your calendar. Additionally, you'll want to put any new due dates in your calendar when you sign up for new credit cards or services.
3. Sign up for text or email reminders.
If you don't want to manually put reminders into your calendar, you can check with your credit card company, mortgage servicer, auto loan servicer and/or student loan servicer about getting alerts for your due dates.
When I was paying off my student loans, I signed up for text alerts through Nelnet to receive reminders five days before my payment was due.
I also receive email reminders 10 days before my credit card payment is due.
Getting digital reminders can help you stay on top of payments - but it's on you to take the action once you receive the reminder.
4. Enroll in credit monitoring.
Your credit score and credit report are important parts of your financial life. But keeping tabs on them may seem inconvenient or time-consuming. One way to make the process less frustrating is to enroll in credit monitoring.
Credit Karma's credit monitoring service can notify you after a new account is opened in your name and reported to your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. This can help you stay on top of your credit scores and reports and have a better understanding of the underlying influences that ultimately affect your credit.
Enrolling in credit monitoring can help you take a proactive role in your credit health, but unfortunately, it doesn't prevent fraud or mistakes.
So even if you opt for credit monitoring, you may want to regularly review your information to ensure it's all correct. And if you see any mistakes on your report, consider disputing them.
5. Download a savings app to take the legwork out of saving.
If you find it difficult to save, you can download a savings app such as Digit to help you save effortlessly.
Digit looks over your accounts and, through its software, analyzes what you can put in a savings account. It then automatically transfers money from your checking account into a Digit savings account.
Some users love how easy it is to save, while others aren't impressed by the fact that the savings account doesn't earn interest.
If you want to earn interest and make saving easier, one option is SmartyPig, an online piggy bank that currently earns 0.75 percent annual percentage yield (APY).
If you're interested in small-scale investing, you can use an app such as Acorns. Acorns rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests your spare change.
Being an adult, paying bills and managing your money can be frustrating; there's always one more thing to keep track of or one more bill to pay.
While managing your finances can be a frustrating process, these five tips can make things a bit easier.
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