Welcome to week 7 in Jennifer Ford Berry's fantabulous book, "Organize Now!" Forgive me for being a little late with this post... life happens, ya know?!? But this week's topic is super important (though probably not the most popular!) as it deals with how to organize your bill paying system. Let's roll up our pants, put on our boots, and jump right in, shall we?! First let's go over the goals that Berry has laid out for us this week, and then I'll share with you how I have finally implemented a system for our house that has worked like a charm:
Decide on a comfortable place to pay your bills. If you are lucky enough to have a "home office," that's great! If you don't, the kitchen table or the counter top will suffice. If you find it more peaceful (and quiet!) in your bedroom, that works too.
Set up this area with all the things necessary for bill paying: a calculator, pens, envelopes, stamps, return address labels, etc.
Shred any old payment books from old loans that you've already paid off.
Decide on an organized system that works for you (handwritten checks, online bill pay, or a particular computer software program... they all work!) and put it into practice.
Berry suggests asking your bank about online banking and also suggests Quicken for bill paying if you feel comfortable letting the "pen and paper" go. As I mentioned last week (and Berry confirms), online banking is fast and easy, and can also save you money in the long run on stamps and envelopes. Plus, it's a "greener" way to pay your bills by saving some trees and a bonus: PAPER CLUTTER is banished!!! Berry also suggests asking your bank to keep your cancelled checks for the same reason.
Schedule time each week to pay your bills and check on your accounts.
After a bill is paid, write or stamp "PAID" across the top and file it away in your filing cabinet (or basket or folder if you don't have a cabinet) until the end of the month. At the end of the month, punch holes in them and file them away in a 3 ring binder. Use dividers to mark each category (mortgage, car payment, electricity, etc.) for easy reference.
Not long ago, I ran up on this blog post that has literally saved the day with my bill paying. I knew I had to copy it. I mean, LOOK at it. Pardon me while I swoon with organizational envy...
Seriously, go check out the deets. I copied it almost exactly. Why reinvent the wheel, right?!? I also saw this morning where Bonnie from House of Grace has a similar one too! Great minds think alike, eh? ;) I'm just thrilled to now be in the company of such organizational excellence! Here is my version:
And here is another picture without the calendar on the front nestled away in the corner of my kitchen... it's new home!:
I picked the file box up at Staples and it was on sale! Woot-woot! I liked it because it matched my other organizer that I bought from Wal-Mart a while back.The calendar in my first picture is also from Wal-Mart and was a steal at around three bucks. Momma likes a bargain!
Here's a peek at the insides:
Notice that the folders for bills is numero uno. As mail comes in, it gets sorted accordingly. Each member of the family also gets a folder so when those papers from school come flooding in, they have a space, too. The categories for the folders are: Bills, Incoming Mail, Receipts, Chuck, Lindsey, Anna, Jamie, Coupons, and To File. Eventually, I would like to have ALL yellow folders so that it looks all "coordinated" with my kitchen (cuz I'm a freak like that!), but I just had to use what I had on hand.
My main problem with bill paying was this: the mail would come in and get put on the counter. The paper pile would grow and grow and eventually, a lonely little bill would get lost in the shuffle and not get paid on time. UGGHH! Complete frustration! Has that happened to you? Well, this little systems takes care of that. Once a week (on Mondays, that's my designated "bill paying" day) I take this little basket to my desk and pay the bills in the "Bills" folder. Done. Easy peasy.
As for the ever-growing paper pile, it gets designated to one of these two trash bins:
One is for papers that need to be shredded (the shredder is in the office, these bins are in the kitchen right behind the counter where the mail organizer is) and the other is just for general paper to be recycled. I forgot to take the "Hefty" labels off from when I bought them. I DID, however label them with my handy-dandy label maker so other people (should they choose to handle the mail) know exactly what goes where. I'm the bill payer of the fam, so this task is usually left to me, but a girl can dream, right? :D
Okay, so back to the actual bill paying! Like I said last week, I've been paying my bills online for a while now and it has really worked well. I actually figured up one time how much money I was saving in stamps over the course of a year and I was amazed. I can't remember now as it's been so long, but it was substantial.
After I pay a bill, I mark on the bill how much was paid (by either circling the minimum payment or writing the amount on top if I've paid more) and writing the date I paid it. I then file it away in my filing cabinet. After about 6 months, I shred this info. Usually, I haven't needed this info after this amount of time.
Right now there is only one bill that gets sent to my e- mail (I was trying the "paperless statement" to see if I liked it... the jury is still out. I'm still the kind of girl that likes to have my hands on the bill right in front of me.) and one bill that is taken out of my checking account automatically. As our bills decrease in number, I see me switching to more automatic bill paying. It's just one less thing to think about, ya know? But for now, I think I'll keep doing what I'm doing, at least for a while.
I hoped this post has helped someone out there who might be struggling to get a handle on their bill paying system. It can be overwhelming, but just keep trying. Any system is better than no system at all, and there is lots of inspiration from Blog-land to encourage and inspire you. Check back next week as we organize our receipts... SO important for tax season that is well under way! And don't forget to check out today's post by Bonnie for more bill paying ideas! Bye for now!