I used to be easily discouraged about ever getting a handle on our finances. I just couldn't find a method that I could stick to or that actually made sense to me. After trying the usual methods for bill paying and keeping track of our expenditures, here is something that has helped me to not only pay our bills on time, but actually keep track of them.
I made the electronic leap of faith, and scheduled all regular bills to be paid automatically. On the plus side, there were no more late fees, but the challenge was making sure the money was there! So I bought a large, cheap wall calendar and wrote on it when each bill was due to be paid. I look at the calendar often anyway (it's the most useful tool to organization and planning, right?), so each week I know to be sure the money is there for the bills coming up for payment that week.
Sounds so simple, but just getting the paper clutter off my desk, the 'remembering' out of my head, made such a difference in my attitude. Now we are actually getting out of debt and improving our credit rating each month because of this simple start.
I hope this helps someone out there who feels overwhelmed - you can do it! As someone once said to me, "you can't start any sooner than today"
By T Jackson from Tampa, FL
If we could organize our expenses we might notice where we "waste" a good bit of money. It might also help keep us from overdrawing from the bank and save us from penalties.
Let me suggest what I do. This is the process I use all the time. If you only do it for a month it may answer many questions.
First of all, I keep all of my receipts, all of them. At the end of the day I sit down with my receipts and I pull out my checkbook. I write down every expense like it was a check, but in the area where I would put a check number I put a C for cash or an M for charge (MasterCard). I don't jot down everything on the receipt, but I comment what it was for: lunch, doctor, gas, toll, etc.
I should also mention at this point I carry one charge card and $50 in cash. That cash needs to float me for 2 weeks if at all possible. Bigger expenses or unexpected expenses I charge whenever possible and I get a receipt.
When writing things in my checkbook I use more than one "set" of lines some times in the ledger. Usually there are 2 lines per entry. Depending on what I am keeping track of I'll use 3 or even four lines for an entry. This helps with understanding what the money was for.
For example, if you order multiple items from Amazon and they are from different sellers Amazon will show you one amount as the "total" charge. When in fact each item gets charged separately by Amazon for each seller. So when you have Amazon written in your ledger with an amount of $15 for three items and you try to balance this in your checkbook you will not find that charge. Instead you will find 3 separate charges that total $15, all of which will be shown as Amazon, but they may be on different days. If you write Amazon in your ledger and then, "item 1" $6, then on the next line "item 2" $4, and then a third line "item 3" $5, you will find it easier to balance these charges. You can date each charge individually to know when they were applied to your account as well.
The end result of keeping track of all your money in your checkbook is, at the end of the month, you can write down all your expenses in different categories (like food: groceries, meals, breaks, OR car: gas, oil, tune up, car wash, OR house: electric, water, trash, sewage, rent/mortgage) and see where you may be wasting money. Thus revealing places where you may be able to "save" money.
By Suntydt from Tazewell, TN
I open all mail immediately upon bringing it into the house. If I cannot do that, at least the bills are pulled out and placed in my bill-paying spot on my desk. This is where they stay until the next payday rolls around.
I pay bills on (or around) the 1st and 15th days of the month, paydays. I write my tithe check to my church first, then I go through all the bills that have already been placed in the bill slot of a table top organizer that sits on my desk. Any designated spot will do.
I use my credit union's free web bill-pay program and go through the pile to determine which are due before the next payday. Those get paid and all the related paper work is completed, notes made on the statements, and they are filed.
I do not use auto-bill pay for anything since I want to see the invoices before paying them to prevent any mistaken charges on the account being paid without my knowledge or permission. I also like the paper statements in my file so I, or anyone, can pull out any past statements without internet access or any passwords. This works well for me. I need the paper reminders and I rely on myself to get them paid, not my bank. So if anything goes wrong, I know I've done my part of the process and have no trouble being accountable for that.
By Leslie from Portsmouth, VA
The same goes for monthly payments to the dentist, doctor, etc. If you have regular $60.00 monthly payments to the dentist, send: $60.01 (Jan.); $60.02 (Feb.); $60.03 (March) etc. Now you have a detailed payment record and it hasn't been expensive or complicated :)
By cajun62234 from Opelousas
The 4 sections in the sorter are for each week in the month. I then put the bills in the slot that corresponds with the week it needs to be paid such as 1st slot is for 1st week of month, 2nd slot second week of month and so on. On Sunday of every week I make sure that all bills in first slot are gone and put in a folder marked paid. I do this for every week throughout the month.
I also have a small calendar that I keep with the sorter and I mark off each week and write the bills that were paid for that week. This way as new bills come in you will not get confused as to why there may be a bills in 1st week slot or so on. I have the sorter on my desk where I pay and sort all bills. It sits on top of the folder for paid bills so then everything is there together. You can also keep a notebook which does come in handy as well. This notebook is where I write everything down so I can keep track of how much bills were last to this month and so on.
By Karmen from Dupo, IL
I have filled one notebook over the past 10 years and on my second one now. I can look back and see what I paid last year or last month.
By Marie from Gainesville, TX
Now, I live on SSD, which means I know what my income is each month. When it's deposited, I have set days when automatic withdrawals are made to pay the bills. What I do is go through and take the "money" out of the total that is set, then if there is anything left over, that is what I can save or spend. Believe me there isn't much, if any, but I am lucky to have it and a roof over my head. So, if my income were $1000.00 (I wish!), and my cable is 88.00 then I write down that, put the balance in, then take out my insurance, and so on.
I never overdraft now and find that entering things in a register "once a month and it's done" really helps.
If this sounds like it might help you, give it a try.
By Sandi from Salem, OR
It was then and there that I realized I needed to reorganize the tabs on the hanging file folders I use after paying bills. Instead of the tab reading "ATandT" for our cell phone, I changed it to "CELL PHONE"; instead of "City of Watauga" for the water bill, I changed it to "WATER"; instead of "DISH NETWORK", I changed it to "CABLE"; and so on. This has helped him greatly when looking for something and I'm not at home. I hope it helps you as well!
Most bills are paid over the phone. As a bill is paid, it is checked off the calendar and moved from the folder to a "paid" bin with date paid and confirmation number on the face of the envelope. At the end of the month, this stack is bundled with a rubber band and placed neatly by month order in a decorative basket for future reference.
I assign a pen color for each kind of notation on the calendar. Red ink notes bill and amount due. Appointments are in black ink. Birthdays are logged in with blue ink (18 grandchildren). A quick glance at the beginning of the week keeps me on target.
The desk calendar allows me to easily flip back to previous months for bill comparison or payment confirmation. By saving the previous year's calendar under the present one, year to year bills can be easily compared and birthdays can be transferred readily to the new calendar year.
By Marie from AL
You can find these organizers at places like Office Depot, probably Wal-Mart, or some dollar stores. I found my last one at a church rummage sale. It was new and never used. It has pictures of beautiful plants and flowers on each page. I hope this will be as helpful to others as it has been to me.
By Gloria R. from Seguin, TX
I finally found a large 3-ring notebook and purchased a set of dividers with pockets. Each pocket I used scrapbooking letters to label them, Dental, Medical, checking account... and so on. I spent a few dollars and bought a paper hole cutter. Each time a statement or letter comes in, I cut the holes and insert it with the proper divider. The envelopes are great for receipts and canceled checks.
Now when I need to find something quick, I grab my 2008 filing notebook and flip through easily to what I need. It is so much more neat and organized! I love the way everything is easier to view! The cost is minimal and the notebook can store at the end of the year without taking up as much room.
By missjudiinsc from Six Mile, SC
I also picked a day of the month to sit down and pay all the bills. Doing it online, I can pay in advance. When the bill is paid, I write 'PAID' over it in red ink in my planner. Just don't forget to print a copy of the payment and confirmation number or write it on the bill. This has worked very well for me for years.
By vk from Midland, MI
In the interim, there is one place to find everything: no rummaging through separate piles of papers, no worrying about someone picking up your papers and moving them, etc.. I wish I had thought of this a long time ago, it would have saved me a lot of aggravation!
By Eileen from Chicago
By Jen from Cincinnati, OH
On the outside I use the big labels that has our name on it and then in the blank area I put the year. I don't save envelopes with the bills, I just put the bills that are paid in the correct slot. If I need to look something up I can find the year and then the receipts easy enough.
Source: a friend
By phyll11234 from Buffalo,WY
How do you organize your files with your bank statements, credit card statements, tax deductible items, home insurance, medical insurance, pay stubs, etc.? Year after year.
I have a realy strong magnet with a clip on it that I put all my unpaid bill on that I keep on my refig. I write the amount and date due on each envelope. When paid I write ck# on bill or staple online reciept to bill and place in monthtly bills file. I have files for credit card info, pay stubs, online purchases and bank statements. Just remember to file the same way everytime ie most resent in front. Also purge your files everyonce in a while. Might want to consider a fire safe for valubles like wills, home and car titles, savings bonds etc.
Three Ring Binder
I got tired of digging through filing cabinets to find a statement or bill so I started punching holes in my bills and organizing them in a three ring binder. I organized them by date. (Bills too small to be punched were taped or stapled to a larger piece of paper.) I had separate sections for bills, taxes, insurances, credit cards, etc. I had a separate binder for medical papers and bills and one just for the house which contained my mortgage contract and statements. When I needed to find a statement, I just flipped through the appropriate binder and each year I start new binders.
By Sharon from Bonita Springs, FL
See Through Folders
I use the binders that have zippers all around and metal rings inside. I put those plastic see thru folders that snap shut, I punch holes thru them and place them in the binder, label them, that way you can just slip the bills in there and when it comes time to pay the bills you have everything including pens and whatever else you need all in one binder and zipped so you don't misplace the bills! Works great for me!
Folders for Each Day of the Month
In the front of my file cabinet (main file cabinet) I keep folders marked 1-31, representing each day of the month. As bills arrive, I place them in the folder for the day I need to pay them. Really helps me to get my bills paid on time.