Adulting 101: How to Pay Bills in College

Paying your bills on time is critical to keeping your credit intact. Learn how to pay bills in college and avoid late payments.

portrait of Marisa Upson
by Marisa Upson

Published on June 10, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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Adulting 101: How to Pay Bills in College
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Paying bills isn't always easy. But when you're a college student, it can seem almost impossible. However, graduating with your credit intact can offer greater opportunities personally and professionally, making it easier to buy a car or house or take that dream vacation.

That requires paying your bills on time and in full each month.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help you stay in control of your finances. A few key considerations include creating a budget, staying organized, and setting up your monthly payments in advance.

Step 1: Keep Your Bills Organized

Staying organized is the key. There's nothing worse than thinking you have enough money to get through the weekend, only to find an automated withdrawal from your bank account. Once you get your bills organized, you won't have to worry about unexpected withdrawals again.

Keep Your Paper Bills in One Place

Have you ever heard the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind?" It's real in regards to paper bills. When bills arrive, immediately put them in their place, whether in a "Bills to Pay" folder or an envelope holder with a designated bill compartment. That way, you'll never forget about your bills.

Put Your Digital Bills in a File or Spreadsheet

Many bills arrive electronically. Digital bills can get lost in cyberspace if you're not careful. To keep track of paperless bills, create a spreadsheet listing what you're paying and the due date. It's also a good idea to make a file on your computer where you keep your digital bills handy.

Download a Bill Organizer App

One of the best ways to track bills is by downloading and using a bill organizer app. Depending on your personality and preferences, you can use a simple app that lists bills, planned payments, and paid checkmarks. Others run the financial gamut, managing and tracking your expenses, setting up budgets, and sending reminders when bills are due.

Step 2: Ensure You're Not Buying More Than You Can Afford

To pay your bills in a timely fashion, you need to make sure you have or are bringing in enough income to cover your expenses. Setting up a budget now can serve you well in the future and help you meet your career and personal goals.

A budget lists your costs, such as rent, food, bills, and miscellaneous expenses. It also records your income, including money from financial aid, part-time work, and family contributions. By knowing your income and expenses, you can determine if you need to cut back, earn more, or start saving.

Preparing a budget is easy, but sticking to it can be challenging.

When you're tempted to purchase an item you haven't budgeted for, think about your short- and long-term goals. Graduating from college without a mountain of debt can offer more opportunities for travel, big life goals, and professional development.

A money management app is a great tool to help you create and stick to your budget. These apps crunch the numbers for you, pulling information from different accounts and categorizing your spending. A few examples include Mint, PocketGuard, and You Need a Budget.

Step 3: Decide How You Want to Pay Your Bills

There are three basic approaches to paying bills. Online methods include automatic, scheduled payments or logging in each month and paying companies directly or through your bank account. The third, and probably least used form, is to pay by check.

Pay Online Monthly

By paying your bills electronically, you avoid writing checks and buying stamps. However, paying online monthly, compared to autopay, requires you to remember when payments are due. This payment method may work best for fluctuating bills, allowing you to ensure there are no mistakes and that you have the funds in your account.

Set Up Autopay

Setting up autopay means that your bill is automatically paid, coming out of your bank account on the same day each month. This bill pay method ensures you pay your bill on time and is ideal for fixed expenses that remain constant, like car payments. The drawbacks include risking an overdraft fee if there isn't enough money in your account and not remembering to check a bill before paying.

Mail a Check

Some companies charge fees for online bill pay. In these cases, mailing a check may be the best option. The time to process checks varies, so make sure you keep the right amount in your account. Some companies do not charge fees if you pay online using your checking account instead of a debit or credit card.

Step 4: Check Your Statements for Mistakes or Identity Theft

Make sure to check your bank and credit card statements. Monitoring your accounts lets you verify that businesses charged the correct amount and that no duplicate charges came through. Checking your accounts can also help prevent fraud. A criminal may make a small purchase to see if it goes through before attempting a larger charge.

Step 5: Make Your Bill Payment

To make sure you pay your bills on time, you can create an event and set a reminder in your calendar. If you find it difficult to pay a bill, consider calling the company and asking if they can change the due date to better align with when you receive your paychecks.

If you don't pay your bill on time, your credit will take a hit. That can make it hard to get a car, house, or more credit.

How to Pay Different Types of Bills

In most cases, you have more than one option to choose from when making your payments. Some bills are better paid online, in advance, or through a mobile app.

How to Pay a Credit Card Bill

Getting a student credit card comes with rewards and risks. It's a great way to build your credit, as long as you can make the monthly payments and keep the balance low. Using an online payment method helps ensure you pay your bill on time. If the company offers mobile banking, you can use the app to set up payments.

How to Pay a Water Bill

Water companies usually accept payments online through the county website. If your water bill is consistent, you may consider enrolling in their autopay feature. You can also call the water company and pay over the phone using your bank account or credit or debit card. Another option is to send a check through the mail or pay in person at their drop box.

How to Pay a Utility Bill

You can also pay your utility bills online via the company's website. Some allow you to set up recurring payments, choose the payment date, and set a maximum amount. Most companies also offer a budget plan that averages your energy costs and then sets up a consistent monthly payment. Lastly, a prepaid meter allows you to pay in advance and avoid unexpectedly high electric bills.



DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.


BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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