Paying the bills can be painful but you can eliminate some of the sting by ensuring that you’ve got an efficient system for paying bills, which includes staying on top of the finances and keeping the associated paperwork organized.
These tips will help you manage your bills not only this week, but for years to come.
1. Most of us need to pay bills at least twice a month. Determine the days of the month you will pay bills and schedule it on your calendar. Determine which bills are to be paid during each time frame. You may even want to create a simple spreadsheet that lists all of the payees, dates the bills are due each month, the amount owed or minimum payment, how you pay the bill—credit card, online or by check. This spreadsheet becomes your guide or checklist each month and will also help you with your monthly budget.
2. If you’re not already paying your bills online, I would strongly encourage you do so. Not only will you save postage, but you’ll save a lot of time by not having to write checks. You can set payments up to pay automatically on a certain day, pay at a future date, and if you’re traveling, you can access your account from any computer and pay bills so they aren’t late. To ensure that you remain in good standing with your credit card companies, schedule the minimum payment on a recurring basis—then, if you want to pay off the card each month, you can do so, but at least you’re assured a payment is made.
3. Did you know that you can contact your credit companies and some utility companies and ask them to change the day that your bills are due? This way you can have several of your bills with the same due date, making it even easier for you to pay bills twice a month and correspond to pay periods.
4. Establish one location where the bills that need to be placed, prior to being paid. If more than one person in your home is responsible for paying the bills, be sure you know the location for the other person, so you can place the bills where he/she will find them. Misplaced bills lead to late fees and damage to your credit report.
5. If you pay off your credit cards each month and you have a credit card that gives you reward points for your card usage, schedule as many of your utility expenses to recur monthly on your credit card. This way, you never have to worry about paying those bills and you get the added bonus of frequent flyer miles or hotel points!
6. After you’ve paid the bills, they need to be filed. If you don’t like to file immediately, create a “to be flied” location and place the bills there after they’ve been paid. Keep in mind that many of the bills you pay, you can’t take a tax deduction on, so you don’t even need to keep the statements once they’ve been paid. Utility bills are an example of a bill you pay each month that you can’t write off on taxes, so why keep them only to have to file them later? Instead, create a “paid bills” folder. Each time you pay one of the utility bills, place the statement in the “paid bills” folder. The next time you pay that same bill, remove the statement from the “paid bills” folder from the previous month after you’re sure they’ve received your payment and place the next month’s statement that has been paid in the folder. This way you’ve created a rotational system for those bills you don’t need to file for tax reasons.
If however you’re taking a deduction on a home office for business reasons, you will want to save those utility statements for a minimum of three years.
7. For those bills that you paid and need to file, such as mortgage statements, credit cards, medical expenses, and so on, create a folder for each bill you pay for your filing system. Resist the urge to file all credit card statements together for multiple credit cards, it will only take you more time to sort them out later and dispose of them after you no longer need them. File your bills with the most current statement on top.
Consider using a bit of time each week to to implement these simple strategies. You are guaranteed to have an organized approach to managing the bills on an ongoing basis using these recommendations.
© 2008 Eliminate Chaos, LLC