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Being late can cost you. Here are ways to avoid forgetting to pay your obligations, and if that still does not work, how to strategically beg for leniency!

Credit Cards

Pay off your credit cardbalances online and pay at least the minimum to avoid fees. If you prefer snail mail, ask the bank to set a personalized due date, one that’s right after you receive your paycheck when money is plentiful and your checks won’t likely bounce. If you’re slapped with a fee because a check does not arrive on time ask for a waiver. (This works only if you’re a good-faith cardholder.)

DVD Rentals

While we love to support mom-and-pops, many still charge daily late fees that can quickly add up. Meantime, DVD rental giants like Netflix (Stock Quote: NFLX) and Blockbuster (Stock Quote: BBI) are much more lenient. Consider joining if you’re a forgetful movie buff. At Blockbuster if customers don’t return a rental, they will have to buy it, but otherwise, if brought back within 30 days, it just costs a $1.25 restocking fee. At Netflix there are no due dates or late fees.

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Most library books can be borrowed for an average two weeks. If you don’t think you can drop off the book on time, call and ask for an extension. Set your cell phone to buzz on the day that it’s due, in case you totally forget. Otherwise fees can range from 10 cents to $2.00 a day. After a certain period, like 30 days, the library usually declares the item “lost” and the fee may then soar to more than $100. Sometimes a collection agency gets involved. This may also hurt your credit report, since certain borrowed items – usually with a more than $50 value - are technically considered “debt” from the library’s view. Credit rating agencies may be made aware.


Sign up for overdraft protection to avoid the average $30 per bounced-check fee. Also sign up for checking accounts with fee-free checking, which don’t punish you for having less than a certain amount in the account and allow you to write as many checks as you like.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

Put these payments on autopilot. Have your bank do the work for you. Set up an automatic transfer once a month to all your creditors, from your utility to your cell phone provider and cable company. Choose a date or two that will suit all your deadlines. Again, perhaps pick a date right after getting paid so you don’t have to worry about insufficient funds.

Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8 p.m.