Organizing Bills & Payments

Dealing with financial management, including monthly bill payments can be difficult for many people. The may find themselves sending in payments late for no other reason than the fact they forgot. If you are looking to get organized and set up a plan for efficiently dealing with finances and bills, check out our simple steps.

1) Automate: Although this option does not work for everyone, automating payments via your bank’s online bill pay system can save you time and money. You’ll never have to worry about whether or not you sent in the payment on time or if you’ll incur a late fee. This plan works especially well for monthly recurring bills, such as gym memberships, cable service, or cell phone bills, but you can set up almost all accounts to be paid this way. Automation is also a great tool for increasing your savings. Automated savings deposits (especially to another bank account that you don’t see or touch) can ensure you contribute each month.

2) Go Paperless: Requesting paperless bills will help to keep you and your home organized. This allows you to maintain all of the records you need, without having to store a physical copy. In terms of payments, many people like the system of keeping the email reminder in their inbox until it has been paid. Once you’ve scheduled the payment, archive the email and you’re good until the next month.

3) Physical Organization: If you are going to manage bills the old fashioned way, set yourself up for organizational success by creating a system. Store all unpaid bills together in one folder and only relocate them after they have been paid. The folder should only contain one month’s worth of bills. Once something been paid, mark it as paid and file the paper bill in an organized cabinet. You can also shred it, as you’ll always be able to access the information online, should you need it.

4) Schedule Bill Pay Time: Scheduling 2-4 days per month for bill pay can help you keep on track. Mark the recurring days and times on the calendar and allot enough time to get everything paid that’s due before your next bill pay appointment.

5) Management & Tracking Systems: For more tech savvy people, a financial management system such as LearnVest or Mint.com can help you monitor income, expenses, bills, savings, and investments. It can also remind you when things are due, alert you to excessive interest charges and give recommendations for improving your financial situation. The ability to access your entire portfolio of finances in one place or on-the-go is also a nice feature.

TWOW

 

Paper Clutter Strategies & Maintenance

Paper clutter is typically the most common issue we see in organizing consultations. Between personal information, mail, work documents, and other incoming paper the stacks can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve devised a couple of simple strategies for reducing the amount of paper coming in and living in your home.

Junk Mail: Eliminate junk mail from ever making its way into your home by enlisting a service, such as 41pounds.org. The service takes your name off of junk mail lists and can even minimize catalog delivery.

Mail System: We have discussed in previous posts, the handiness of maintaining a mail processing system. Get a basic file folder container and insert 3 files. The first can be labeled ‘Action Needed’ for important items that need service soon. The second is labeled ‘Upcoming’ and should contain items that may need handling in the coming weeks. The third is ‘Interest’ which may contain coupons or information received for things you may want to consider in the future. Each week, select a day to evaluate the contents of the files and move, file, or trash items as necessary.

Business Cards: Business cards are a big problem for many professionals. The contact information is important, but the storage or entry can be a pain. Try an app such as ScanBizCards which uses OCR technology to digitize the information from a photo taken of any card.

Digital Docs: For more traditional business documents, consider using an online doc development and storage suite, such as Google Docs. Anything you produce or need will be stored online for easy access and updating.

Personal Docs: A simple trick for keeping personal documents under control is to immediately upon opening, shred or trash anything that is not necessary to keep. When deciding what to keep and what to shred, consider if the document could be obtained easily online if needed. Utility, credit card, and even medical bills are all stored online and thus physical copies are rarely needed.

Paperless Billing: Take advantage of online billpay, paperless statements, and email communications as much as possible to further curb paper in your home.

Tax Docs: For documents pertaining to taxes, use a well-labeled storage system, such as the ones recommended here. Only save items in category labeled folders for the first year and then move everything into a single folder labeled by the year following your tax filing. All tax documents can be shredded or trashed after 7 years, but for a list of what to keep and what to toss, check out Suze Orman’s recommendations.

Upside Down Sorting: When attempting a paper sort, flip the pile upside down to start with the oldest, and likely most unnecessary, documents first.

To File or Not to File: Before filing something, ask yourself when was the last time you accessed something similar from the filing cabinet. If the answer is never, you probably don’t need to file it.

We know that paper can be a hassle, but if you stay on top of it soon after it enters your home it will never become unmanageable.

Good Luck!
TWOW

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