Deborah From Ohio writes:
Yes, our budget and debt are completely out of control, but I need some suggestions for a manageable way to open, record, and keep bills in place. My husband and I are both ADHD, so complex or time-consuming is not a good option.
Also, we have private music students in our home every day, so posted on the fridge calendar is not a good plan, either. It has been suggested to me to add a financial tab to the Household Planner, but we leave that available to babysitters and our kids, and that doesn’t really help much with the logistics of the thing. A system has to be out of sight for visitors and clients, sustainable for rather flighty personalities, and certainly EFFECTIVE!
Can you help? This is an area that has always eluded me, but 10 years of marriage, 5 kids, a home studio and a mortgage later, I am just beyond overwhelmed. Please, oh, please, tell me there’s a way!
Some of the suggestions I am going to give you may take time to accomplish and you may be able to do others right away.
First you need to simplify your bills. I have never had any success with planners or calendar methods myself. Mainly I have as few bills coming in as possible. I have only one credit card I use and pay it at the end of each month. Do you know how much easier that is to deal with each month then say 10-12 cards? Even just getting envelopes and stamps for them can be laborious let alone having to write a check and remember to pay them. Even if you pay on line you still spend more time with 10-12 bills then one.
Pay cash when you can. There should be no reason why you can’t pay cash when you go to the store. When you go to the doctor’s pay for the visit while you’re there. I’m not sure why but our society is trained to procrastinate on paying for anything we buy and all that does is make more work later down the road. Don’t whine and say but I just don’t have any self control. Then grown up, put on your big girl or boy pants and get some. Seriously? Start taking some responsibility for yourself and your finances.
Even before you are able to reduce the number of bills coming in, find one place where you can store all your bills as they come in. As you are going through the mail each day, open up your bills and trash what you don’t need, immediately. You now have only half the amount of paperwork cluttering your counter.
Don’t lay the bills down. Store them vertically. Why don’t I lay them down? Because they can start getting piled and then shuffled in with other things. I lean mine against a basket on my counter. You could use a napkin holder or even two book ends. Mike and Tawra have a bill organizer with 31 slots, one for each day of the month. As they open the bills, they put each one in a slot indicating the date the bill needs to be paid (10 days before the due date).
I keep my bills where I can see them. If you can’t keep yours in the kitchen, find a less public room where you can put them, but make sure it’s a place where you see them every day. If that doesn’t work and they have to be stored away, make sure every Friday or the day you get your pay check you take 15-30 minutes to sit down and pay what needs to be paid for that week.
Another thing that helps is to write the date the bill is due in red on the outside of the envelope so you can see at a glance when to pay it. Also keep a tray or one to two inch deep basket by your bills with stamps, address labels, you checkbook and anything else you need to pay bills. if you can arrange it so everything is right at your fingertips when you are ready to pay them. I have gotten my bills under control enough that it takes me no more then 30 minutes a month to balance my statement and pay my bills.
Many “experts” tell us that we need to use elaborate filing systems and programs that track every receipt, but this makes the system more complicated then paying the bills. Keep it simple. I hope that helps a little.
PS – How do I control my bills? Each day or the next morning when a bill comes in I write a check and stick it in an envelope to send in the mail the next day. I never have a late bill. If you have to deal with it on line then check it out on line. Check things out every day or every other. Keep track of it this way and know what your money is doing. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Once you have your spending under control you only need to check it once a week or so.
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