Editor's note: this article originally ran on Wise Piggy. It has been reprinted here with permission.
Is one of your goals for 2014 getting your finances in order and increasing your credit score? Regardless of your financial circumstances, you should make promptly paying your bills — including utilities, student loans, credit cards and mortgages — a priority each month. Since payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO score, even the occasional late payment can decrease your credit score, which will cost money with increased interest rates and lost credit opportunities.
Here are five ways to make sure that you never miss a payment again:
Create a workable schedule
Many people pay their bills when they are due. But if all of your bills are due at the beginning of the month and you get paid twice a month, then you may find yourself only paying the minimum amount. Write down the day of the month that all of your bills are due and the days that you are paid. Determine if paying some bills early makes sense so you can spread the expenses out throughout the month. Many people find that paying their bills on set days each month helps to keep organized and bills paid on time.
Give yourself a buffer
Life happens. But since even being a few days late with a payment can have a negative impact, tell yourself that each bill is due a few days before the actual deadline. This will give you a grace period in case you forget, the bank is slow processing the payment, your Internet is down or another of the many other things that can go wrong.
Set a calendar reminder
Using your buffer date, set up an electronic calendar reminder to help you remember that your bill payment is due soon. You can use the calendar application on your smartphone, Google or Outlook calendar, or even a paper calendar if you prefer. Be sure to select the reminder method that fits into your overall organizational strategy.
Use an app
There are many smartphone or tablet apps out there to help you keep track of your bills and when payments are due. Most of the apps cost a few dollars, but the investment is worth it if it is the difference between being late and on time. Popular apps include BillMinder and BillTracker.
Set up auto payment
While there are some drawbacks to setting up automatic payments, if you are consistently late on bills then it may make sense for you to use online bill pay to set up your bills to pay automatically. However, to prevent theft and fraud, be sure to closely monitor your bank account to make sure the appropriate amounts are being withdrawn.
With a few simple steps, and taking an honest look at your payment history and your routine, you can improve and protect your credit score.