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.
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.