How Can I Do A Better Job Managing My Bills?



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How Can I Do A Better Job Managing My Bills?

People often have problems managing bills. Often the problems are disorganization or overly complex systems. Try these easy ideas to simplify your bills!

How Can I Do A Better Job Managing My Bills?

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!

Jill: 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. One of the things that trips people up the most with their bills is having too complex a system for handling them. 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 than 10-12 cards? Even just getting envelopes and stamps for that many bills can be laborious, let alone having to write checks and remember to pay them. Even if you pay online, you still spend significantly more time with 10-12 bills than one and then you also have to keep track of multiple logins and passwords.

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 office, pay for the visit while you’re there. I’m not sure why but our society is trained to procrastinate when it comes to paying for anything we buy and all that does is make more work and more confusion later down the road. Many people say, “But I just don’t have any self control.” Then grow up, put on your big girl or big boy pants and get some self control. 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 of your bills as you receive them. Having bills in more than one location and mixed in with other paperwork significantly increases the likelihood of one or more getting overlooked. As you are going through the mail each day, open up your bills and trash what you don’t need, immediately, including all of the inserts, sales offers and other items in the envelope that are not actually the bills. Then you will only have half the amount of paperwork cluttering your counter.

Don’t lay the bills flat. 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 bill 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 that every Friday or the day you get your paycheck you take 15-30 minutes to sit down and pay what needs to be paid for that week.

(Note from Mike: Our bills mostly arrive over one week during the month. When I’m paying them, I will go ahead any pay any future bills we have received, even if they’re not due for a while, so they’re not cluttering up my space.)

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 near 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 bank 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 than actually paying the bills. Sure, it might be OK to track every detail for a short time to get a feel for how your family spends, but too much complexity will cause you to get lost in too much information. Keep it simple.

-Jill

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 online, then check it out online. 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.

 

Comments

  1. Sandra says

    One thing I have found helps me is to keep my checkbook, pen, extra envelopes, and stamps where I open my bills. As I open the bills I go ahead and write the check and place it and the return portion of the bill in the envelope and seal it. I then write the date it needs to be mailed in the corner of the envelope where the stamp goes amd put in the slot of my organizer under the date it needs to go out. On that day I just slap a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox. It only takes 1 or 2 minutes to write out the checks as you open the bill.

  2. Sandra says

    Another thing is I only have 5 slots in my organizer. I mail all bills on the Monday after I get paid on Friday. That way I am positive the money is in the bank and credited. That gives me sunday evening to stamp and put the bills in the rural mailbox for the Monday mail.

  3. Sandra says

    Another thing I do to simplify bill paying is by using a “bill payer” account for certain bills. I only use automatic bill payer for things that have a fixed monthly payment, like when I had a house payment and car payment ( which I no longer have, praise the Lord!} my insurance,internet,etc.
    I learned the hard way not to let variable bills like utilities, T.V., credit cards, be taken directly from my account after a relative who we were letting stay with us temporarily while she “got back on her feet” made some calls to a “Psychic hotline” and my phone bill that should have been $65.00 hit my account at over $400.00 and I had checks bouncing all over the place!
    Thankfully since this was something that I had never done before my bank waived their fees but I still had the embarrassment of calling several business’ to explain the situation and paying some of them returned check fees.
    Now all utilities and credit cards come in a paper bill that I can check prior to paying them, if I want I can go online and have a payment sent or write the check and mail it. It also helps me to see if I am letting a utility use or credit card get out of hand and cut back if necessary.

  4. says

    I pay all my bills on line. this means I get the bill in the mail and toss it on my desk.
    Then every 2nd Thursday I take my 2nd cup of coffee and sit down at my husbands computer. (his has way more security so banking is on it) and I write down the amount of each bill. I total that along with the expenses estimate and pay each bill crossing it off my list.
    Anything left over goes either into the savings account or the RRSP.
    The only draw back is that I have sent out all that money and I haven’t even had a shower or gotten dressed. But the bills are all paid so I can get on with life.
    I have been doing this for 7 years and have not missed a payment in all that time.
    The weeks that the bills are more the expenses guesstimate is less so I plan better in what to buy.
    I know that isn’t probably the best way to do things but for me it works because I don’t forget to mail something out on time. And there is no charge to use the internet.

    • says

      Grandma, it is the best way to do it since it works for you and you get the bills paid. So many people spend hours reading books, going to seminars and trying systems to figure out the best way to pay their bills. I think sometimes that is just one more excuse not to just pay them .

      It isn’t complicated whether you pay on line or by mail, sit down write the check or at the computer and pay it. Often what the real problem is people are trying to find an easy way to keep spending and still pay their bills. They aren’t really trying to find a better system they are just trying to find something to teach them more discipline and until they face up to the fact no system will work.

  5. says

    Just learned a lesson.
    Last week with all the apples to do we went out and were looking for a machine to help with some of the processing. We looked at a lot of machines and decided the Magic Bullet gave us the most bang for our buck. We spend $130. Love the machine and are enjoying it a lot. It has pride of place on the counter. (no other place for it)
    Saw the flyer from the store we bought it at and it is only $106 this week. Now if we could find the sales slip we could get $30 back since we bought it a week of the sale price.
    Have looked all over for the receipt and it is gone. So no money back.
    Keep your receipts in plain sight just in case. That way you don’t have to kick yourself by losing out on sale items.
    Still hoping it will be in the van under a seat or something.
    One way to get the van cleaned out.

    • says

      I have the same receipt problem too and I try to be so careful of mine. It likes Murphy’s law I can find every receipt for the past 5 years except the one I need soooo bad.

      Also everyone don’t forget about dehydrating your apples and other things. I have been dehydrating like crazy. It is so easy and then come Nov. or Jan if I want some applesauce or apple butter I just pull one of my packets of apples out and make up some “fresh”. If they last that long my kids love munching on them dehydrated for a snack.

  6. says

    I save the large envelopes that some ads come in and label them by the month. Then I save them in my cabinet for a couple of months to see if anything needs returned or whatever. Maybe this would work.

  7. Mzggie says

    I get paid every other Friday and I pay bills on Saturday. My check is direct deposited in one account and I write a check to deposit in our household account. My husband pays the household bills but I have my own things that I cover. I find that if I let the bills lanquish for a few days, I am scurrying to get them paid on time. So, I go to the bank either Friday or Saturday and then sit down and pay everything due that week on Saturday and I don’t have to worry about doing it later. I keep all my incoming bills in my calendar that is in my briefcase and I know where everything is. Last month, I lost a bill because I left it (I thought) on the dining room table and nearly missed the deadline for payment. I finally found it in my purse. Most likely, I tucked it in there for safekeeping until I could put it in my calendar and forgot it. :). This system has worked for me for the past 30 years and I like having a system.

  8. Lyndsae says

    For those who have trouble organizing paper bills, online bill payment may be a good solution. Almost all service providers (water, electric, gas, cable, phone, insurance, etc.) offer electronic bill payment. I’ve set up all of my bills to come out of my checking account on pre-determined dates each month, so I don’t have to worry about opening bills, writing checks, finding stamps, etc. I get links to each bill by email 2-4 weeks before the payment date, then I review them for accuracy and make sure I have money in the checking account to cover them. It’s much easier and it saves money on stamps!

  9. Deb Robinson says

    I do all budgeting in Excel and I love it. I make a plan every fall for the following year and stick to it. I enter all the bills i expect and a lk the income I expect then arrange by date. Then i enter the expected checking account balance at the end of the year. Then i enter an equation that adds in all the income and subtracts all the expenses. As the year progresses I highlight the expenses hat have occured. It is super easy to balance the check book!

  10. Mary Jane says

    The best way to pay bills on time is to keep all bills in one place as they come in, then have a regular set time to pay them, and then just do it. My husband gets paid every two weeks. All the bills that come in are prepared for payment every other Thursday night, just before payday Friday. On Friday, I go to the bank, then the post office, then grocery shopping. (We still do it the old fashioned way). Certain bills are always paid in the first half of the month, and certain ones are always paid in the second half of the month. You can either set money aside for bills that will be due later, change the date that the bills will come due in some cases, or find other ways to divide the main bills each month. The best tip here, and I can attest to it, is to have as few bills as possible coming in. Regular disciplined saving from every paycheck helps build a fund for those bills that are larger, come less often or are emergencies, but must still be paid on time, such as taxes or insurance.

  11. Anita says

    I prepay mine every fortnight on line when my age pension comes in. I use my Visa so I can get frequent flyer points. I then straight away transfer that money over to my visa so I am not being charged interest on it at the end of the month. Also the ones that don’t accept prepay in advance I have it automatically out of my visa on the due date again I make sure the money is in my visa. That way I never have to worry if I have missed a payment or late on payments. Work out all your bills approximately for the year then work out what they would come to monthly then either weekly or fortnightly what ever suits and make sure you put that money away I find with doing this with a lot of my bills like phone, power etc I am in credit. It takes me about 15 minutes every fortnight to do this so not long at all.

  12. Gladys Reid says

    When my husband was working he was paid every second Thursday. Then when he retired he got paid once a month I had a real problem surviving for the whole month. So I made a list of every bill we have and made a list every month with these bills and the amount. Once they were paid we live on what was left. We have never had a problem, because I can cut back where necessary. I put spending money, food, hydro, our offering for church, birthdays and put a certain amount each month for Christmas and etc. I keep an eye on how things are going and if there is enough money to meet my bills. So if we are a bit short and we had planned to go out for supper then we put off the supper til the next month.

    • says

      That is really the secret in a nutshell Gladys – you kept an eye on your money and adjusted it as needed by not spending someplace else. Most now don’t have a clue to what they have spent, spend what they want then come pay day they can’t figure what they are going to do because they come up short.

  13. Linda says

    Like others we have most of our bills charged automatically to our Discover card and pay off in full every month so as not to incur interest charges. We get about $1000 cash back at the end of the year doing this. With gas. groceries, most utilities, insurance, etc. etc. it adds up!

    It’s also a great way to get a complete listing of most of your living expenses, and you can download the bill to an excel spreadsheet so you can sort and analyze for budget purposes. Plus rather than multiple bills we just pay 1, and I have it set up to take from my checking account on the day the bill is due. I just have to be sure there’s enough in that account when it’s due. It’s a great time-saver and gives peace of mind.

  14. Rebekah Marks says

    As soon as a bill comes in, I throw out the outer envelope and extra inserts, tuck the bill just inside the return envelope flap with the amount due showing, and set it vertically in a napkin holder according to date due. Since we balance our checkbook against the online version of our bank account, it makes sense to have our bills next to the computer.

    I’ll even use that spot to store cash in envelopes to save up for specific items. It’s just a handy spot.

  15. Dee-Dee says

    Always keep your credit card receipts! When the bill comes in check off the receipt with the charges listed on the bill. I was doubled billed and this came in very handy and will save you some money! Put your credit card receipts in an envelope, they will all be there when you need them.

  16. Beth says

    As a working, home-owning widow, it all falls to me to pay. I pay 1/2 of each bill with each of my 2 paychecks a month. For example, I budget $80/month for electricity. My highest bill in the winter was about $75 and the lowest in the summer was $40. (Not bad for Maine, but I am super conservative!) No matter, I still pay $40/bi-weekly. I had a rough time a couple of months ago and because I was diligent about paying the $40/bi-weekly I did not have to pay my electric bill for 2 months, freeing up the much needed funds for another bill. This month I have 3 paycheck, still paying $40 from each paycheck on the electric bill, just in case. :)

    Besided utilities/taxes, I do not have any bills except a mortgage. No credit cards, no auto loans. So I pay on my mortgage DAILY. YES, DAILY. My credit union allows this and the loan lady said it is actually the smartest way to pay it because they charge the interest daily. Because of no credit cards, auto loans I am able to pay extra on my mortgage. (Even with the rough patch mentioned above I maintained the daily payment.) I will have a 10 year mortgage paid off in about 7 years I am guessing. I am aiming for 5 but we’ll see. I took the total of the mortgage, divided by 30 (days) and rounded it up to an even dollar amount. When I got a raise this year (after not receiving any for 5 years!) I added an extra dollar a day. Doesn’t sound like much, doesn’t hurt much, and will make a difference on the mortgage balance in the long run. The months that have 31 days are bonus payments on the mortgage balance.

    I have to give God all the praise for His wisdom regarding finances. First and foremost I give my tithes to my home church. This is the key to financial freedom, Malachi 3:10. Believe me, you cannot outgive God! I am proof.

    Thank you for allowing me to share. Have a blessed day. :)

  17. Barbara Roberts says

    I keep a simple steno book, I make vertical columns the first being a little wider, next I label the months at the top of each column. Then I label the all bills in the first column horizontally, and the pay date example:
    Jan Feb March April
    Kohls 5 60.95 49.95 300.00 10.
    Electric 10 129.30 134.22 127.00 128.00
    cable 12 70.00 70.00 70.00 70.00
    water bill 3 30.00 30.00

    I continue my list with all my bills, in same fashion
    I put a simple x over the amount once it is paid (that’s the best part)
    This way I can see exactly what my bills are and what is left to pay in any given month
    I can tell immediately if something does not look right.
    I have a whole history of my bills no more searching through old bills or check books
    No late fees

  18. Kate H says

    When I was working I got paid every 2 weeks had direct deposit and had my bills automatically withdrawn so I would never miss a payment. I found a website Mint.com that helped me keep track of all my expenses. Then 3 yrs ago I became disabled now I was getting a check every month, mint.com helped me see where I needed to cut back and what I could get rid of to save me money and the best part is that it’s FREE.

  19. Charlene Roberson says

    I use one of those old-fashioned mail slot hangers on the wall. When the bills arrive, usually during the middle to end of the month, I put them in one slot. Then, around the 5th of the month, I sit at my computer and pay all of them online. I can schedule when the money is taken from my bank account, so I pay the bills 3 days before they are due and carefully enter everything into my checkbook. Then I transfer any overages to my savings account, keeping $500 for miscellaneous expenses for the rest of the month. We pay EVERYTHING by credit card, using only ones that give cash back, and pay the total each month. I have used this plan for several years and it works well for us. Although the savings account doesn’t draw much interest these days, if it is not readily available in the checking account, I think twice before transferring it back to checking!

  20. Tricia says

    What works best for me is a cork board hung above the computer. When the bills come in I post them in the order they are due. Then I also write which week they get paid on a calendar. They don’t get lost and I know at the beginning of each week how much will be needed for bills.

  21. says

    I still follow the old fashion way by depositing the pay cheque I get every week when I started working initially. I was keeping close eyes on all the bills I was getting and pay it immediately to avoid late bill charges. You should start paying bills at the very same time you get the bill to avoid late payment charges.

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