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Life comes with daily distractions. As a result, your bills can sometimes slip through the cracks. If you’ve ever missed a monthly bill payment, you’re not alone: A quarter of all Americans end up making late payments.

Paying your bills on time is important for more than keeping your lights on. Late payments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, negatively affecting your credit score (Check two of your credit scores free on Credit.com). If you have trouble staying current with your bills, you may need to get organized. Here are four ways to do so easily so you can stay on top of your bills.

1. Keep Your Bills in One Place

You may receive and pay your bills online, through the mail or via a mix of both. But if you don’t keep your bills in one place, it can be easy to lose track of them. Paper bills can be lost in the mail or accidentally thrown away, and emailed bills can wind up buried in your inbox.

To stay organized, you may want to standardize the way you receive bills by choosing electronic or paper bills for all your lenders and suppliers. Then, you can keep all monthly bills in one place as you receive them. A bill tray on your desk or a folder on your computer should suffice. If you continue to receive a mix of bill types, you can still put them in one place by printing or scanning them.

2. Set Reminders

How often you pay bills is up to you. You may need to review and pay bills weekly, biweekly or monthly, depending on factors including your paycheck schedule and bill due dates. To keep yourself honest, you can mark recurring calendar appointments for bill payment and set reminders. Automated phone and email reminders are simple to set up, or you can keep track on your wall calendar — whatever is most likely to help you stick to your schedule.

3. Set Up Automated Payments

Many service providers and lenders offer automated payments that pull funds from your account at predetermined times. Many companies offer small discounts for participating in automated bill pay. You need a sufficient bank account balance to cover your bills, so this feature may not be right for you if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If you are confident in your bank account balance, automated bill pay provides a hassle-free way to pay bills.

It’s also possible to auto pay bills with a credit card. That can be a benefit if your payments allow you to earn points or cash back, but only if you don’t carry a balance.

4. Adjust Due Dates

Some monthly bills, especially credit cards, let you adjust your due dates. You may wish to schedule your bills to be due on the same day so you can remember to pay them all at once. Or, you may wish to stagger them throughout the month for cash-flow reasons.

If you adjust your due dates, make sure to adjust any calendar appointments or reminders accordingly.

There are many online bill management solutions, both free and paid, that can help you with some or all of the above tips. So, if you think you need more help managing your bills, bill management software might be the way to go.

Image: Geber86

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