When dealing with your personal finances, the best option is frequently to keep things as simple as possible to avoid unnecessary confusion and error. However, when organizing your bills, keeping things simple can be a complicated task on its own. Automating bill payments will only work with high-balance accounts that you can keep a close eye on, and you’ll also find that credit cards aren’t an option for many kinds of bills. Though we’ve seen huge advancements in technology for bill-paying, many people still stick to the old ways. To organize your bills, follow these steps and avoid unnecessary hassle.
Keep Track of Your Bills—Literally
These days see both an increase in digital correspondence as well as the volume of mail the average consumer receives in a day. Because of this, it’s easy for bill payers to lose track of what is kept where and can throw your plans to organize your bills for a loop. Typically, it’s ideal to keep one set of physical (mailed) bills together somewhere safe and also a folder or archive for any bills that have been digitally delivered. To simplify things further you can print out digital bills or scan physical ones, but it’s up to you to decide if it is worth the time.
Professionals advise creating an area in your home dedicated to managing finances, and it doesn’t have to be a full home office. Even a simple accordion file cabinet or organized drawer will do, but keeping all of your financial papers in one area will greatly reduce stress and increase efficiency. In addition, this helps you develop the habit of visiting it periodically (ideally once or more per week) and will prevent financial neglect.
Open Every Bill
If you’ve fallen behind on your payments, it can be very tempting to ignore the envelope, set it aside, and leave it alone. While this does put off the unpleasant task of looking at your expenses, it does nothing to help you—and typically fosters a sense of neglect that will only double whatever financial issues you may find yourself in. However, many people miss critical information in these unopened letters, like late fees. On the other hand, it may hold a pleasant surprise like a refund check or extension. Putting off the bad news won’t improve it. By opening every bill, you not only gain a much clearer view of your finances, but you also improve your overall security. Ignoring bills is a big way to set you back financially, and will do nothing to help you organize your bills.
Create a Payment Schedule
Whether monthly, weekly, or on a different schedule, you should find a way to reserve time to organize your bills, pay them, and generally catch up with your finances to avoid falling into the dark of financial uncertainty. Many financial advisors suggest an hour per week for finance work, and at least two folders to make use of during that time. One way to organize is paid and unpaid, but find a system that works for you and stick with it. There’s many ways to keep track of finances, and they will all help as long as you know how to keep track of and organize your bills.
Consider Online Help
Typically, online bill services attract two people: people who work better with computers and spreadsheets than accordion files and writing, as well as people who have fallen behind enough on their bills that they need more help than they can get themselves. Lots of websites promise to help you with your own bill paying, and we’ll look at some of the most popular here.
- FileThis.com: Various levels of membership from free to $5 a month, and with that various levels of service. More or less a digital file cabinet that has tools to organize your bills, create financial statements, and keep track of other online documents.
- Finovera.com: Free online bill organizer that works with creditors to create a clearer picture of your finances. You don’t need to add bills manually, when they are sent to you they are automatically added to your account.
- Check.me: A simple free app that monitors bank and credit card accounts as well as keeping track of bill payments. It will notify you if a balance drops to a dangerously low balance, or about upcoming payments you need to make.
- MoneyStream.com: Another free service with typical bill organization tools. However, this has a calendar interface which will let you take a look at upcoming payments, paydays, due dates, and time-critical aspects of finance.
Even if you begin heavy use of one of these systems, don’t rely too heavily on it. Some bill organizers have shut down and caused a total loss of records for some clients, and others have had errors where consumer accounts and their records went missing.
However you choose to organize your bills, it should be the option that is the most simple for you. Fancy features are useless if you have trouble using them. The simpler the system, the less time you will have to dedicate to paying them.