If you've been following this month, I've hit the subject of Time Management pretty hard. But let's take a mental break from that.
Let's do something quick and easy that will make almost any household run more efficiently . . . such as putting together a bill paying/finances center.
By mutual agreement, I'm passing the torch of managing our finances over to Steve. I am soooooo ready to let it go, and he will bring a new perspective to our budget and lifestyle. But since he will be doing this task at my desk, I want to set things up for him so that everything is at his fingertips.
The mail comes in at the first level, but the office is on the 2nd floor. There is no way we're making extra trips up the stairs that we could avoid. So we separate the bills from the rest of the mail, and put bills to be paid in a hanging wall organizer in the mudroom. Steve grabs the bills when he's ready to pay them. Separating them from the other mail is key: then you don't have to go through stacks of paper and chance misplacing one. Basically, late bills = bad.
EASIER BILL PAYMENT
We pay almost all of our bills online through our bank. For bills that don't fluctuate, such as mortgage, insurance and loans, we set up on auto pay. For bills that change month to month, we connect to one site, key in the amount and when it should be paid. Boom. Done. It actually takes more time to open the paper envelope of the bill than to pay the bill. I must admit, I resisted online payments for a long time, but that's because I'm old school, and by nature, I tend to be overly cautious. Now I love it. When I have to write a paper check from time to time, the process feels outdated and archaic to me.
We don't, but you can. I run my business out of our home and need paper copies for taxes, and filing bills is faster than printing out receipts or requesting/printing spreadsheets from all the necessary companies at the end of the year. It would be bliss to give up filing and storing the paper, but perhaps you could enjoy this. It's fairly awesome for the environment, and lowers the overhead of the people you do business with.
FILE YOUR STUFF
I used to have a complicated system of separating expenses into categories, but found it is much MUCH simpler to lump paid bills together by month, using a durable 13-slot separator for the year. If something big is going on such as a renovation, or a very large purchase such as a vehicle, I give it a separate file. But for the most part, the above works like a charm. The 13th slot can be used for income taxes.
SUPPLIES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
A letter opener, stapler and a box of envelopes are good things to have around. And there is always the occasional bill that requires a paper check. In that case, I've provided a zippered plastic envelope that holds the checkbook/register, stamps, calculator, return address labels, and a pen.
SOMETHING TO HOLD IT ALL
I use an open fabric covered container that has been around since the 90s - you can tell by the colors! But there are a myriad of ways to do this according to your own preference. Some clients like to use a hanging file in a bankers box or filing cabinet. Some like a hanging magnetic pocket on the side of the fridge. Some like a tray or a binder. It's all good.
One of the great things about having it all together in one container is that the container is mobile - a nice benefit if you aren't tied to a PC. Bill payers that utilize smart phone/device, or people who write out all their checks, can enjoy the freedom of moving to any space, any time.
We also choose to keep a few more files here that just seem to go with receipts, and this is mostly for the ease of filing, and tax preparation. So along with the stuff mentioned, I have manilla folders for our 2015 and 2014 Health Service Account, our 2015 Investment Portfolio, as well as taxes from 2014. And because we will attack our budget soon, I'm temporarily keeping 2014 receipts at hand until we bite the bullet and become more in control of our income. (Perhaps some day I'll blog about that . . . )
Some kind of list or notebook is good to have around with your passwords, usernames and account numbers - all in one place. I used to keep it all in my head, but then I thought: what if I get amnesia or a rare form of mid-life Alzheimer's? How will we have access to anything? (See what I mean about myself - overly cautious.)
You'll like how easy it is to quickly pay your bills and get back to something you'd rather be doing!