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Bring Your Bills Under Control

Follow these tips to avoid late payments, overpayments, and unnecessary stress.

The importance of paying bills on time is general knowledge, but with the slew of bills we all have to deal with--from mortgages to utilities to credit cards to cell phones--one can easily slip through the cracks. Here are some strategies to avoid late payments (and the fees that accompany them) and minimize stress.

1. Schedule all bills to be due at the same time of the month. Many bills allow you to change your due-date. Select a due-date a few days after you receive your paycheck each month. Designating a "bill day" will keep you from worrying throughout the rest of the month and ensure that bills do not fall under the radar.

2. Set up automatic payments. Automatic payments ensure that you will not miss a payment, but they are not a license to stop thinking about your bills. You may find that it makes sense to automate some of your bills and not others. Bills that are the same every month, such as your mortgage or gym payment, are prime candidates for automation. Payments that vary monthly, such as credit cards, are better suited for manual payment so that you can examine the bill--and your spending habits--before signing off.

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