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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 MT from Tampa, FL
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
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 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.
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.
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?"
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".
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping track of household expenditures does not need to be a complex process. This is a guide about simple household bookkeeping system.
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.
By Maria Gracia
1. KEEP YOUR PENDING BILLS TOGETHER, IN ONE DESIGNATED AREA.
As soon as your mail arrives, or at your designated mail sorting time, sort through the mail, separating your pending bills from all of your other mail. When done sorting, immediately place your pending bills in an envelope, pocket folder or Pending Bills basket.
2. DO NOT SEPARATE EACH PENDING BILL INTO A SEPARATE FOLDER.
Whatever you do, don't put your utility bill in one folder, your car insurance bill in another folder and your membership dues bill in another. All pending bills should be together in an envelope, pocket folder or basket so they can be paid without having to search 10 different places to find them. My husband and I use a Bill Paying Pocket Folder Book which has about 20 Pocket Folders inside. All of our Pending Bills go together in the very first pocket folder. All Paid Invoices/Receipts then get filed in the individual categorized pocket folders that follow. This system works like a dream for us.
3. DESIGNATE 2 TO 4 REGULAR DAYS PER MONTH TO PAY YOUR BILLS.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you don't have to drop everything you're doing when you get a bill in the mail to pay it immediately. Designate 2 to 4 days per month and do all of your bill paying on those days. My husband and I pay our bills on the 8th and 22nd of each month. You may do the same, or perhaps you might want to pay any pending bills one day per week, such as, every Friday.
4. PAY YOUR BILLS IN ONE PLACE AND KEEP ALL OF YOUR BILL PAYING SUPPLIES TOGETHER.
In order to speed up your bill paying efforts, always pay your bills in one place, whether that place be your desk, the kitchen table, etc. Wherever it is, this area should be equipped with your bills, checkbook, envelopes, stamps, pens, pencils, a calculator, tape, a stapler and return address labels. If you don't have drawers to keep your supplies in, get yourself a small plastic box, or even a shoe box, and keep everything inside.
5. IMMEDIATELY RECORD YOUR PAID BILLS.
As soon as you pay each bill, immediately record the payment in your check register or computer software register. Don't wait until later because if you do, there's a good chance you will forget. And once you forget, you'll have to waste time and money later dealing with overdrawn account fees.
6. PLACE PAID INVOICES/RECEIPTS INTO A BILL PAYING POCKET FOLDER BOOK OR CATEGORIZED FILE FOLDERS.
Once you pay your bills, mark your copy or section of the invoice with the Date Paid, Check Number and Amount Paid. Then, file each into the appropriate pocket of your Bill Paying Folder-- with one pocket for each; i.e. Utilities, Insurance, MasterCard, Visa, etc.) or into categorized folders in your filing cabinet.
7. ORGANIZE YOUR CANCELLED CHECKS AND CHECKING ACCOUNT STATEMENTS.
Every month you will receive checking account statement(s), and possibly cancelled checks, from your bank. Immediately place them in a folder until your designated monthly date rolls around to reconcile your checking account. Then, keep your statements and cancelled checks all together in a folder for the year. You may need to retrieve them later for your accountant when tax season rolls around. By the way, any bank statements and/or cancelled checks more than a year old can be stored away in a different area than your current files. You may also consider checking with your accountant to determine how long he or she suggests you need to keep this information.
8. CONDENSE YOUR CREDIT CARDS.
The more credit cards you have, the more difficult it is going to be to keep them organized, and the longer it's going to take you to pay your bills. Whenever possible, condense your many credit cards into 2 or 3 credit cards, and get rid of the rest.
9. PREPARE ENVELOPES FOR RECURRING BILLS BEFOREHAND.
For recurring bills, such as mortgage, rent or loan payments, you'll save a lot of time preparing a bunch of envelopes for each beforehand. For example, let's say you have to pay the rent each month. Make a year's worth of envelopes out with your landlord's name and mailing address, your return address and a stamp. This way, everything will be all set to go each month. You just write out a check, place it in the prepared envelope and mail.
10. SIMPLIFY EVEN MORE WITH INEXPENSIVE MONEY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE.
If you're paying your bills manually, you may consider purchasing inexpensive, money management software. My husband and I use Quicken. It's a breeze to set up and reduces the time it takes us to pay our bills by more than 50%. Plus, it's a great time saver at tax time because it will automatically organize all of your income and expenses, with a print-out, ready for your accountant.
About The Author: by Maria Gracia - Get Organized Now! http://www.getorganizednow.com FREE Idea-Pak and E-zine filled with tips, ideas, articles and more to help you organize your home, your office and your life at the Get Organized Now! Web site!
I have a 3 ring binder and I use page protectors
In addition to my bidget forms and bills I ALSO include copies of all my insurance policies and investments. If we were threatened by a tornado I'd take the binder to the basement with me
If I were to die my DH could pay te bills AND collect the life insurance policy all by going to the same binder! LOL
THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ORGANIZING BILLS, BUT ..WE USE A LEDGER TO POST OUR BILLS IN.I PUT THE DATE DUE, THE NAME OF THE BILL
AND PLACE A CHECK MARK BESIDE IT WEHN IT GETS PAID ALONG WITH A CHECK NUMBER SO IF I EVER NEED TO VERIFY THAT SOMETHING HAS BEEN PAID I SIMPLY LOOK UP THE CHECK NUMBER IN MY REGISTER AND CAN TELL YOU EXACTLY WHEN IT GOT PAID. I CAN GO BACK FOR THAT LAST 10 YEARS IN OUR LEDGERS AND KNOW WHAT WE PAID THEN AND TO WHOM
I have bills automatically taken our of checking account. I use my savings account for everything else. It makes it simple and worry free.
I use this online service to remind me about upcoming bills and budget. It works great! You can check it out at http://www.whatbills.com
Now if I could just decrease my credit card debt!
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.
Do I need to keep a full year of bill statements?
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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 Sandi/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!
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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.