Trying to manage all your monthly payments can feel overwhelming at times. However, a bit of strategy and organisation can help you can keep the stress and any extra fees to a minimum.
1. Know your bills inside out
The best way to take control of your bills is to have a clear picture of what you need to pay. Set aside some time to make a list of all your outgoings. Every single one. You can write a simple list, make a spreadsheet or use an online budget planner.
You should include:
- what date they’re due on - are they paid monthly or annually?
- how they’re paid - by direct debit or manually?
- if they have an end date, what is it?
- any irregular bills as well, for example, petrol costs or grocery shopping.
When you have a clear picture of your outgoings, you can see where it might be possible to save money.
2. Essential bills only
If money is tight you could look at cutting out non-essentials. For example, do you still use your gym membership or Amazon Prime subscription? Don’t just stop paying though. Contact the provider to cancel the membership/subscription first. You should also find out if there are any cancellation fees. If you cancel your direct debit without warning, you might receive a fine.
Be sure to include your irregular bills. This way you’ll see if you’re spending more than you thought, and reduce anything unnecessary. Could you buy fuel from a cheaper garage? Do you always need a takeaway coffee or could you start having one at home instead?
Paying yearly might work out cheaper
Some bills give you the option of paying yearly or in monthly instalments. Car insurance is a good example of this. Paying monthly allows you to spread the cost, but you’ll have to pay interest and monthly fees. If this is the case for your policy, paying annually might be cheaper. Work out which suits you best. If you want to change the frequency of your payments, contact the provider. Do it before the renewal date so it doesn’t continue as it is.
Note renewal dates
Renewal dates present good opportunities to get better deals. For example, if your phone contract is coming up for renewal, check if your provider can put you on a better tariff. If your provider can’t help you, then maybe it's time to shop for a better deal. Make sure it is a better deal though. Some companies will lure new customers in with offers of gifts or reduced payments only to increase them a few months later.
3. Be on time with payments
Missing payments or making late payments can result in fees or interest charges. Paying your bills by direct debit means payments are always made on time, but this relies on the funds being available. You have a little more control if you make the payments manually but it can be easy to forget the dates. If you prefer to pay manually, put reminders in your calendar.
4. Switch energy providers
You might be able to save a couple hundred pounds a year by switching energy providers. While this seems like a lot of hassle, it can be simple with this free compare and switch service. This service will compare the energy providers in your area and give you the option of automatically changing to the cheapest supplier. Be aware that the cheapest may not always be the best option. Sometimes a low price can come at the expense of reliable customer service. It’s worth doing some research before you make the change.
5. Share the cost with friends and family
Some car insurance and mobile phone providers, offer deals for families and friends. They'll insure more than one car or have several phones on the same contract. Contrary to what you may have thought, you don’t have to be related to benefit from these offers. Check the terms and conditions before you commit though. Ask questions like, “What would happen to my no claims bonus if my relative/friend had an accident?”.
6. Keep checking your bills
Put aside some time every few months to repeat the process. A subscription you may use a lot now, might be irrelevant later. You should also keep an eye out for any mistakes, such as payments taken twice or if you’ve overpaid.
7. If you need help
Speak to your lender if you find that your bills are becoming hard to manage. They might be able to help by temporarily reducing payments, extending payment periods or putting you on a cheaper contract. Before making any changes to existing agreements, check if they'll affect your credit history. If you want to talk to someone about managing debt, you can find a debt adviser near you.
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