There are times you may find yourself behind on bills. Maybe life has thrown you a curveball you didn’t see coming or maybe you flat out missed a payment and didn’t realize it until you received a notice in the mail. If that happens, for whatever reason, here is the best way to help you get current on past due bills without falling further behind.

Know What is Due When

You need to start by knowing what bills you have coming up over the next month, when they are due, and what are their amounts. If you’re following this Fiscal Fitness Budgeting Method, you should already have this information written down somewhere. Knowing what is due when is key to helping you create a strategy for paying off a past due bill.

Let’s say you had a bill due on the 15th that you didn’t pay. It’s the 18th, so you’re past due. You missed the payment date by three days. If you get money today and pay that bill, you’re current now, but you can’t change the fact that you paid it late. You may get hit with a penalty or owe a fine no matter what.

But if by paying that past due bill, you’ve dwindled the amount in your checking account. It’s possible you may not be able to pay the next bill you have coming on the 22nd. So now that one’s going to be late too meaning you may end up owing even more money in penalties and fines.

The exception to this is if there’s a grace period. If you can pay this bill a day or two late without incurring fines or penalties go ahead and pay it. It’s best to avoid future penalties or late fees when possible.

Don’t Rush to Get Current if it Means Falling Further Behind

But let’s say the damage was already done for the bill that was due on the 15th. There’s no changing that. You do have the ability to make sure you don’t miss any more payments going forward. If you apply the money you were going to put toward your past due bill to your next bill, you can stay current on that one. So instead of having two late payments, you’ll only have one. When you have the money, I would rather you get ahead on whichever bill is due next instead of getting current on the past due one. It’s easier to manage one late bill instead of two. Not to mention, it’s far less stressful.

With that plan in place, your goal here is to get your past due bill paid by the time it comes due again. Take the past due penalty as a learning curve and make sure you’re set from here on out. And definitely keep your list of what is due when handy.