Learn to Adult: All About Bills



The JAWS soundtrack is playing in the distance. Everyone hears it as it gets closer and closer yet no one can run away. In reality, it’s the sound of bills as the crawl from the ocean of adulthood to bombard us as we get older. Towards the end of college and into our first few years of independence, paying bills can be confusing and frightening. Read on to get an idea of what to expect, and learn how to make it a (semi) better experience.

Want to hear about one bill in particular? Skip ahead to find: Rent, electric/gas, internet/cable, water/sewage, trash/recycling, phone, medical, car note, insurance, subscriptions.



1. Rent

Keep in mind everything you’re looking for in a home: size, location, and most importantly, price. Does the rent include extras like water and sewage? How immediate is your landlord if there’s a problem? Do you need roommates? Finding a place that doesn’t soak up your entire paycheck is a priority. Rent is typically due on the first of the month so it’s difficult to forget. Check in on acceptable methods of payment: Check, cash, online, through the mail, or in person.


2. Electric/Gas

Sometimes you don’t have a choice in your provider if you live in an apartment, and certain neighborhoods may vote on having a different provider for gas or electric (that you’re allowed to opt out of). It’s always important to ask which is cheaper: the voted in or local provider. The majority of an electric/gas bill will be spent on gas. The colder it is, the harder the furnace will work. As for electric, prices will be higher during peak hours: dawn to 8am, and 5-8pm. Make sure to choose a format for receiving the bill that you’ll see each time: snail mail or email. You’ll receive the bill at the end of each month and it’ll be due within a few weeks.


3. Internet/Cable

If you don’t have a lot of money, pick what you need not what you want. Use an online calculator to determine what internet speed you need: 20, 30, 50+ MPS. You can either buy a router at the store or lease one from the Internet company. It’s cheaper to purchase your own, but if something goes wrong with it the Internet provider won’t fix it. If you plan to get cable make sure to bundle it with your Internet for cost savings. While it’s cheaper to avoid cable and use online services, if you decide on TV pick a bundle with stations you’ll actually watch. Choose an appropriate format to receive the bill whether by snail mail or email. You’ll receive the bill at the end of each month and it’ll be due within a couple of weeks.


**Protip: Many companies will offer a discount if you select to “Go Green” and receive emails over physical mailed bills.


4. Water/Sewage

Your water usage is measured like electric or gas through a meter. Depending on your housing arrangement, this is taken care of by the landlord. A water bill will correlate with things like showering, dishes, drinking, cooking, etc. while for sewage, you’re paying the fee for cleaning up the water that you have finished using. Certain companies will have different billing periods, but plan on paying every month.


5. Trash/Recycling

Unfortunately, placing trash on the side of the street for weekly pick up isn’t exactly free. Typically this bill is taken care of by the property owner. There are certain time frames for when you’re allowed to place your trash and recycling out, and a different pickup day per neighborhood. This is one of the cheapest bills you will pay on a monthly basis. Recycling will be an extra cost and you’ll need a city bin.


6. Phone

At some point you have to get off of the family plan (or at least contribute to it). While having the latest phone is the best, unless you can afford to pay for all of it outright you’ll have to pay a lease on your device until it’s been paid off completely. This cost will be added to your monthly bill. Talk with your phone provider about your habits in order to pick the most suitable plan. Unlimited data sounds great, but if you’re always connected to Wifi there isn’t a need for it. Choose an appropriate format to receive the bill whether by snail mail or email. You’ll receive the bill at the end of each month and it’ll be due within a couple of weeks.


**Protip: Many services will allow you to change the billing date to better suit your schedule. Check with your company about moving the day around if the default date doesn’t work.


7. Medical Bills

Going to the hospital isn’t a high priority for young people but it’s better than dying. Always make Urgent Care the first stop if they’re open, it’ll save you a lot of money, but the ER is 24/7. These visits will cost a pretty penny and depending on your insurance you’ll either get a bill for just an ER visit (ranging from $50-$200) or a bill mailed to your home address for the treatment, doctor care, and stay. If you can’t afford to pay the whole medical bill hospitals accept payment plans. Call their billing department to make a deal on what you can pay each month. If you have the time to dedicate, try disputing your bill by sharing your income, looking for double charges, or ask for Medicare rates. Be careful though, a failure to pay will result in your bill being sent to a collection agency.


8. Car Note

Many car loans go directly through your bank. This makes paying easy. Once you have borrowed the correct amount, settled on a payment plan, and signed the paperwork, you can allow the bank to automatically withdraw your payment on the due date. This can be once a month or a smaller amount during every paycheck. You don’t have to remember to pay it, just make sure you have enough money in your account. Interest will accrue so feel free to pay more if you have the funds.


9. Insurance

Renters insurance, car insurance, health insurance, it all adds up as a necessary evil. You’re paying into a system where the company hopes nothing happens so they don’t have to pay out, and you’re hoping that it’s enough coverage in case something does happens you’ll be paid for. Not every insurance is the same. Shop around, get quotes online, and determine what works best for you. Prices can change based on your past history and what you’re looking for. Those at a higher risk will typically be paying more. Investigate if your company offers discounts for good student, safe driver, bundle deals, even taking safety courses.


10. Subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, etc.)

These bills are completely optional. Subscriptions can be canceled and reinstated when you have the money to pay them. It’s easy to split these bills with friends and share services. Unlike other bills, these will come out of your account on the due date automatically. You won’t receive a notice for payment. The good news is that they’re cheaper so it doesn’t hurt as much, but depending on what you’re paying for, all of those services will add up. Keep tabs on what you’re paying for and cancel subscriptions you don’t use.


**Protip: Schedule your due dates on payday. It may hurt watching that much money disappear at once, but you won’t accidentally spend money you needed. If you get paid every two weeks, place half your bills on the first pay period and the other half on the second.


Sometimes you can’t afford a bill, and that’s okay, many services allow you to push a due date or even offer resources to help you pay. Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies and ask what they can do to help. And if a bill seems higher than normal, talk to someone and have them explain it and double check your account. Mistakes happen, don’t pay for them.

There are a lot more payments involved with moving out and becoming independent than people typically think. Keep all of these in mind when you start making the move into adulthood.



Check other articles in the Learn to Adult series for other bills or financing that wasn’t mentioned in this article.