How Can I Do A Better Job Managing My Bills?

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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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  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.

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