Manage Your Bills

Not enough time to do the things you want to do; let alone the things you hate to do - like paying bills?  Most of us get bills and we can't get away from them.  I've given some thought to living in a tent in the forest; but I'd have to give up cable TV - forget it! 

Whether you rent or own; you're often subject to a variety of monthly obligations: Electrical; gas; water & sewer; telephones (home & wireless); cable; Internet; insurance (home & auto); credit cards; condo fees.  You can bundle some of those bills; but you're stuck with others.  What to do?   

You can free up some time and improve your finances by automating the tedious task of paying your bills every month.  Put your regular bills on cruise-control; or make sure a bill gets paid without you having to lift a finger!  It takes a little work up front; but the payoff is worth it.  Most companies that bill you regularly allow you to set up pre-authorized payments; either direct from your bank account or from a credit card.  I prefer using a credit card for two reasons:

I have a card that pays me back 1% of purchases - and yes; I do pay off the card in full each month!; and

I prefer not disclosing my bank account number when I can avoid it.  So; I pay a few utility companies from my bank account and everything else from my credit card.    The process for setting up pre-authorized payments usually involves mailing in a form or letter.  That's tedious; too... but it's a one-time thing. 

Once you've set up pre-authorized payments for all of your regular bills; you can relax!  Instead of sitting down two or three times a month with envelopes & cheques or doing data-entry with your banks online service; you can simply review & file your bills as they arrive.  Yes; do review your bills - but a glance is often enough to tell you all is well or somethings wrong.  Don't just toss your bill envelopes unopened in a drawer somewhere!   

You may be thinking: But what about the credit card bill?  Turns out some banks also offer an automatic-payment feature for your credit card; whereby each month they could deduct from your bank account either the card's minimum payment; some other set amount; or the full balance due.  The minimum payment could be handy to at least make sure you never miss a payment (protecting your credit rating!); while still allowing you the flexibility to pay off the remainder at some more convenient time of the month.   

If your bank doesn't offer such an automatic-payment feature for your credit card; you could simulate a minimum payment feature by ballparking an amount and setting up a recurring online bill payment for the credit card.  You'll still want to pay the balance at some other convenient time of the month ... but at least you can rest assured you'll never miss a payment!   

After you've put your bills on cruise-control; what should you do with that newly freed-up time?  Perhaps it could be used to think strategically about your finances: Could they be simpler?  Could you be saving more money; or perhaps investing better?

I'll expand on those in future articles!

Chris W. Rea is a husband, father, software developer, and personal/family finance fanatic living in Mississauga, Ontario.  Chris just launched a new web site,, where you can ask, answer, & vote on questions about money.

Check it out and don't be shy - ask a money question!