by Winnie Saunders
(Boston, Mass, USA)
Utility bills, as with time and tide, wait for no man. They arrive with monotonous regularity, and a deep breath needs to be taken before opening the envelope, and discovering just how much you have to pay.
One of the problems with bills, besides having to fund them, is that they can all too often be forgotten about. If you open your mail when you are busy organising for the day ahead, your latest bill may end up joining a pile of paperwork that you never seem to have the time to sort. Leaving a bill unpaid will result, initially, in final demands but, eventually, to the service being terminated.
If this happens, along with the inconvenience undoubtedly caused, you may well be faced with a further charge for having the service reconnected. Many people pay their utility bills by regular standing order, or direct debit from their bank account. If you prefer to settle each bill as it comes in, you need to set up a foolproof system of sorting and filing, thus avoiding having the service terminated.
First of all, gather up the most recent bills that you have paid, and note on a calendar the date of each bill. Most utility companies today will provide a ‘pay by’ date on the invoice. On the same calendar, make a note of when the next quarter’s bill is likely to arrive and, from this, the expected ‘pay by’ date.
If you intend to pay by cheque, it’s a good idea to write out the cheque, complete the payment slip, and place them in the envelope that usually accompanies the bill. Put a stamp on the envelope, and note on the calendar, in bold pen, the date it needs to be posted. Make sure your calendar is in a prominent place, and get into the habit of checking it daily.
Once you have set up your system, you can take it a step further and make up a spreadsheet, noting each and every bill that comes in. This will be handy for working out just how much your household costs to run. If desired, it will be easy to add other expenses to the spreadsheet, perhaps supermarket till receipts, petrol-station receipts, and so on. Have separate columns for out-of-the-ordinary items such as school trips, holidays, and other occasional expenses; for example, you may need to have the washing machine repaired, or new tires for the car.
A miscellaneous column will be very handy, as long as you update it regularly. You may wonder where all your money goes but, if you note down everything you buy, including that odd bar of chocolate, it may well highlight areas in which you can make savings.
Once you have set up your system, you will probably find that it becomes tailored to your own personal circumstances You will develop your own way of monitoring, not just your regular bills, but also your other household spending. With a little time and planning, forgetting to pay that essential bill will become a thing of the past.