Does the thought of bills bring you out in a cold sweat? Never fear. Our step-by-step guide will help you get your bills under control and hopefully save you some time and money in the long run. Just follow these 7 steps.
Getting your bills under control doesn’t have to be time consuming and stressful, but it’s not something you can whizz through in five minutes either. Set aside a few hours, without any distractions, so you can really get to grips with everything. It should save you lots of time (and hopefully some cash) in the long run.
Make a list of all your bills, including who you need to pay, how much and when. Include everything, from mortgage or rent to utilities, council tax, insurances etc. If the amount you pay varies from month to month, use the last three bills to work out an average payment. You can also add up your total outgoings for the month and see what you need to be setting aside for bills. Once you’re done you should have a detailed picture of who you need to be paying and how much.
Now the real organisation starts, and you can look to set up your payments in a way that works for you. First, think about how you pay your bills. Direct debit is usually the easiest way to pay – you know that the cash is going out at the right time, so you avoid late payment charges, and some companies offer discounts for customers who pay this way. Paying via the phone or using online banking puts you in control of what and when you pay, but you have to remember to make all your payments on time each month, so it’s worth marking the dates on a calendar or setting a reminder on your mobile.
Maybe you’d prefer all your bills to come out on payday, so you know what’s left in your account is yours to spend, or, if you get paid weekly, you might be best spreading payments out across the month so you aren’t left short? For some bills, you can even look into paying annually. It means a larger chunk leaving your bank account in one go, but then you don’t have to calculate regular payments into your budget and for some things, like car insurance, a one-off payment may mean you pay less overall.
If you want to change when you pay, it usually just involves a call to whoever you are paying the bill to.
Once you have your list of all your bills – make a note of when your current deals come to an end and mark them all on your calendar so you can plan to start searching for better prices in advance. Otherwise you’ll roll onto a standard tariff, which is typically more expensive. Energy regulator Ofgem says it’s possible to save as much as £300 a year by switching gas and electricity provider.
You may have put in the bulk of the hard work by taking the first steps to getting your bills under control, but it’s something you need to check on regularly. It’s easy to discard your paper or email bills if you’re paying by direct debit, but it’s worth keeping them in a safe place and checking them against your bank statement to make sure that nothing has changed.
For gas and electricity (and water if you’re on a meter), check if your bill is based on an estimate and if it is submit an accurate reading, otherwise you could end up overpaying, or not paying enough and being sent a hefty bill further down the line.
If you run into difficulty paying your bills, the best thing you can do is speak to the company you owe as soon as possible. They may be able to let you make smaller repayments for a while.