Getting Control of Your Bills

 Posted by on December 19, 2008  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Dec 192008
 

In the “Finances” section of my HMG, I have a bill payment calendar. On it, I record the due dates for all of our monthly bills.

Each month, I note the due dates on my dry-erase calendar on the fridge (see My Simple, 3-Part Organizing System), so the payment reminders are right in front of my face, and I can’t forget them!

This calendar, in conjunction with an effective filing system, will help you get control of your bills, and avoid hefty late fees and damage to your credit rating.

Before you make a bill payment calendar, I want to encourage you to do the following:

1) Pare down your credit cards. Having too many credit cards complicates your life, makes it easy to get into financial trouble, and can actually hurt your credit score, especially if you carry balances on all of them. We have a total of three credit cards; one for business expenses and two for personal use (if everyone accepted Discover, we would only have one). We pay the bills in full each month. If you carry credit card balances, I strongly recommend that you transfer all of them to one major credit card with the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted. Cancel the rest.

2) Eliminate the non-essentials. This includes things like expensive coffee drinks, manicures, magazine subscriptions and premium cable channels. Doing this will simplify your life and put more money in your pocket. If you honestly consider the value that these things add to your life, you’ll probably find that it’s not much. For example, when I was on bedrest during my second pregnancy, we subscribed to the “Dish Family” satellite package to give me more viewing choices during the endless hours of boredom on the couch. For 3 years before that we had been living very contentedly with just our local channels. When I went off bedrest we decided that the extra channels added very little to our enjoyment of life, and weren’t worth the money. We cancelled them. If your kids whine and complain about this, just remind them that it’s your money, your house, and your choice. They aren’t the boss–you are.

3) Shop around for better deals. Sites like lowermybills.com can help you find better rates on internet service, insurance, and long distance.

4) Bank online. You’re already paying for internet service, so make the most of it! Online banking allows you to pay your bills electronically, which is faster, easier and more efficient. If your bank doesn’t offer this service, most companies have a “Pay Online” option on their web sites. This not only saves postage and checks, but it’s much less work for you!

5) Develop a system for dealing with your daily mail. Don’t just put it in a pile! Open and file/recycle/shred it right away.

6) Designate a place for your bills to go. In my portable file box, the very first file is the “Bills” file. I keep this file and my working files in the front, because I refer to them most often. The rest of my files are organized alphabetically.

Inside the “Bills” file, there are 4 manila folders. Each folder is labeled:

Due 1st thru 7th
Due 8th thru 15th
Due 16th thru 23rd
Due 24th thru 31st

When I get bills in the mail, I open them immediately, toss any extraneous junk in the recycling bin, and file the bills in the appropriate folders according to due date. When I pay bills every Thursday, I can easily find the ones that need to be paid, according to my payment calendar. If you don’t have an organized filing system yet, you can just use a simple manila folder or a plastic in-tray.

When you’re ready to make your payment calendar, you can download this free, blank monthly calendar and fill in the dates. Gather up all of your bills, and write their names and due dates on this calendar. Some bills, like credit cards, have a fluctuating due date, so you’ll need to make an approximation for those. If you have an HMG, put this calendar in a sheet protector in your “Finances” section. If not, you should keep it where you can see and refer to it easily.

You should have designated a bill paying day when you made your weekly work schedule. On that day, look at your payment calendar, get the bills that are due in the next week from your designated spot, and pay them. Organization is great!

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