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Bills don't take a holiday

Vacation is a great time to get away from it all, but you can't afford to get away from bill paying.

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If you forget about your bills while you're away, you'll likely return home to late fees and increased interest rates.

Consumers need to manage finances and pay down debt at all times of the year, even while on vacation. Whether you are away for a week or a month or more, be sure you are aware of the payment due dates, as well as the minimum amount that is due.

Here are nine steps you can take to ensure that bills that come due during your play time are paid on time.

1. Know when your bills are due
2. Set up automatic payment alternatives
3. Prepay bills
4. Directly deposit your paycheck
5. Get deposit help
6. Pay from the road
7. Get payment help
8. Work with your creditors in advance
9. Keep an eye on your bank account


1. Know when your bills are due.
Look over old statements and bills to see the time of the month the payment due dates fall on. Are they always mid-month? Do the dates vary? Once you've got a list of due dates, get out the calendar and determine which bills must be paid during your time off.

2. Set up automatic payment alternatives.
Most companies, including your local power utility or your mortgage holder, probably offer electronic payment options. Set up a one-time-only payment so the bill is paid while you're away or consider setting up regular e-payments. "I pay bills before I leave or I set up automatic billing," says Robert Smith, author of "Big Bucks: How to Wake Up the Financial Genius Inside You."

3. Prepay bills.
If you don't want to bother with establishing new payment procedures for this trip, then put your financial house in order beforehand. Mail your checks before you go.

4. Directly deposit your paycheck.
Regardless of how you pay, you want to make sure that your payments are covered. If a payday arrives while you're away, make arrangements with your company and bank to have the check automatically deposited into your account.

5. Get deposit help.
For other money that you're expecting to arrive in your absence, ask a trusted friend or relative to make those deposits for you while you're away. According to Eva Rosenberg, an enrolled agent and the Web's Tax Mama, "Banks will accept a printed name and 'for deposit to within named payee.'"

6. Pay from the road.
Don't have enough money in your account to pay before you hit the road? Write your checks now, postdate them and then mail them during your vacation.

7. Get payment help.
You'll be trekking in Nepal and there's no post office at the base camp of Mount Everest. Or maybe you just don't want to lug your bills with you. Then it's time to ask another favor of the friend who earlier agreed to take care of your miscellaneous deposits. Make it easy on your bill-payment surrogate: Write your checks, insert them and the invoices in the envelopes, stamp them and include payment instructions for each bill. Simply write in pencil on the envelope when it should be mailed. Your friend can just erase the reminder before dropping the bill in the mail.

8. Work with your creditors in advance.
In cases when a bill will fall due and you won't know the exact amount, call the company for payment-option advice. You may be able to work out an approximate amount due for the time you are away.

9. Keep an eye on your bank account.
You made special arrangements to get money into your account to cover your absentee bill paying, but you won't be able to relax and enjoy your break until you make sure that all went as planned. In that case, take along your bank's toll-free number and check your balance from the road. If there is an insufficient funds problem, many banks offer the option to transfer money via phone from a savings account to checking so that your payments won't bounce. You might face a fee for the transfer, but it probably won't be as much as a bill's late-payment charge.

Finally, in addition to making sure your bills are paid while you're away, you also need to think about the new charges you'll be accumulating on your trip. You can notify credit card companies when you will be out of town so that your holiday spending habits won't trigger any alarms.

Jenny C. McCune is a contributing editor based in Montana.


-- Posted: June 25, 2004




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