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I have been so encouraged and greatly helped by the tips I have read here, I hope this little tip will help someone too!
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
You could always use a online reminder service to send you an email at or on a specific date.
There are many free reminder services online. Simple to use especially if your payments are on set dates each month. A really good way to avoid getting late fees because you missed a payment date.
Ever sit down and wonder where your money goes? Many of us put a lump sum of cash in our pocket and when that money is gone just withdraw more money from our checking account or use the good ole debit card. Then we notice we have no more money in our bank account and wonder where it all went. We immediately default to "it must have been all the bills this month" or " that doctor visit really took a hit on the expenses". But are you really sure that you know where your money went?
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
Suntydt, your logic is sound. However, I'd venture to suggest you buy yourself a business-style cash ledger. Use that instead of your checkbook to track your outgoing cash. Might work better and save confusion.
Organizing the household bills and making sure they get paid on time shouldn't be a problem. My process:
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
I also use the method you describe. In addition, I schedule a credit card minimum payment to be received by the credit card company on or before the due date. That way, there is no chance that at least the minimum is not paid on time. The amount can be revised in your online screen for that item. Then schedule additional monies to pay down as appropriate. This allows for a little flexibility when things are tight and avoid late charges and a ding on the credit report!
I purchased a Rubbermaid sorter in the office supply section at Wal-mart. When I get my bills in the mail, I instantly open them. On the front of the envelope I put the date that the bill needs paid by and amount to be paid.
Keeping track of household expenditures does not need to be a complex process. This is a guide about simple household bookkeeping system.
Years ago when I was in college, I got financial aid, and would pay all the bills for three months ahead, like rent, cable, insurance, etc. Then, my daughter and I would know that "this is our money for a cheap movie or a new jacket for school".
I am the one who handles the finances in our home. One day, my husband called me and asked, "Where is the last cable bill and who is it with?"
I use baggies for everything. When all my bills are paid I put all the invoices in a baggie and put the month/year on outside. That way if I ever have to go back to find something it's easy.
Always use an odd amount for transferring money electronically or paying bills. For example, if transferring monies, use $99.98, or $100.01, or $100.02, but never the same amount during a 6 month period.
I am on Social Security and I pay all my bills on the 3rd of each month. When a bill comes in I open it, write the amount in a notebook, and place the bill in a old refrigerator bin I keep in my desk.
I start my checkbook register at the middle of the register. I have found that I can usually write a month's worth of checks on one page of the register using the front (and back if necessary).
After years of struggling to keep all of my monthly statements and bills in a filing box, I decided to think about what would work better for me. The problem I have is every time I open the filing box, my bills, statements and receipts are hard to find.
A desk by the front door with a desk calendar are necessities for me. I open all mail immediately and log bill due dates on the calendar. Bills are then placed in an "accounts payable" folder with due date and creditor's phone number on the front of the envelope.
Every year, I buy a monthly planner at the dollar store. When my bills arrive, either in the mail or online, I put them in the appropriate month in my planner.
I use a Home Finance Bill Organizer to organize when and how much I pay each month. It has a page for each month with a pocket for bills and notes, a section to list date due, expense type, amount and when paid.
When you are budgeting for the year ahead, I have one of the simplest and worry free ways to deal with big annual bills like car insurance, property taxes and any other bill that is going to hit your pocketbook once a year.
After trying every type of organization system possible for a house with four people, I have found the best solution. I put a big basket on the kitchen island, where everything seems to land. Every single piece of paper goes into it.
For several years now I've used the box folders, the ones that have handles on top and 18 or more slots) some have medical, rent, etc. I put my own labels on the folders in the order that works best for us.
As soon as I open a bill, I put it on my computer keyboard. Next time I'm online, I schedule the payment to be made 2 days before it is due. That feature allows me to pay when the bill is due without any fear of forgetting it.
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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.
We started doing it this way last year:
In our big filing cabinet, we have a hanging file for each category-- electric bill, bank statements, etc.
In our little filing cabinet, we have manila filing folders, one for each category with the year labeled, too-- electric bills 2007, bank statements 2007 etc.
Throughout the year, we put stuff in the little filing cabinet as we receive it. At the end of the year, we take the manila folders from the little filing cabinet and put them in the hanging folders in the big filing cabinet. Then make new manila folders for the little cabinet-- electric bills 2008, bank statements 2008, etc.
We started this in 2006 and it has worked pretty well.
I KNOW THAT THIS WILL SOUND STRANGE, BUT...I DO NOT HAVE A DESK AND THE FILE FOLDERS WERE JUST NOT WORKING. I TOOK AN HANGING SHOE ORGANIZER AND HUNG IT ON MY BEDROOM DOOR. IN EACH SLOT I KEEP VARIOUS IMPORTANT PAPERS.MY BILLS, BANK STATEMENTS, MEDICAL INFORMATION EVEN MY SHOPPING CIRCULARS, IT MAKES IT SO MUCH EASIER TO SPOT WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR AND DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE ORGANIZER, YOU CAN DO MONTHLY COMPARTMENTS. I HOPE THAT THIS HELPS. HEATHER
Do I need to keep a full year of bill statements?
I print out a list of our bills by month for a year in columns. As I pay them, I check them off the list. That way I know at a glance what needs to be paid and I don't have any slip by unpaid that I had forgotten.
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I just purchased a Wonderfile and I have to tell you that I highly recommend them.
I had stuff under the bed, in the office, and in the living room. Now, it's all together. I don't have a lap top, but they fit in there, too. There's even a zipper part for the stuff you don't want to be seen, and two places for pens, calculators, and more. If you are a crafter, they are really cool, too. It would also work for artists for pads, brushes, pencils, and more.
No, I don't work for them, but these little gems are wonderful.
I am not certain that Scotch Gard would work on the fabric, so you might want to just try a little on the inside of one corner. I couldn't get the waterproof kind, as that is just on the website. Just a thought if you want to go outside with it.
Please Note: I ordered two for the price of one at their website, and it was not "advisable to go through them". Let's just say the price was wrong and more. They said nothing would be shipped or taken from my credit card for two days. When I called them they said it was already shipped, and that it would take 7-10 days to credit the card! Ever notice that when someone owes you money, it always takes more time? So, I went to Walgreens and bought one for $14.99 plus tax.
Just thought I would help all of us "organizationally challenged" folks.
Hope this helps!
By Poor But Proud from Lake Zurich, IL
PS: I took a shot of it upside down, so when I switched it out it looks funky. Sorry!
I recently purchased this product, and then purchased another one for a friend who also has organizational problems. The Wonderfile is a large size "workspace" that gives me structure as I try to sort and organize the paperwork of my life! The pockets are nice and large, and hold a lot of papers, folders, etc. The best thing about the Wonderfile, I think, is that you can be in the midst of working, and if you have to stop or become interrupted for some reason, you simply fold, strap the cord around the large "button" closure, and go! When you go back to your work, you don't have to start over, but can pick up where you last left off. Wonderful!
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
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.