How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!
There is nothing fancy about this bill paying system, and nothing here is etched in stone. You can customize this whole process to fit your needs, but the one thing that I really recommend is that you designate one place to store all your bill paying supplies. I like to keep mine in the cabinet over my desk because I can close the door on it, and I’m not reminded that I owe people money the whole time I’m working my ass off to make some of it.
Because this is a long post, I know it looks like a lot of trouble to go to just to pay your bills. A lot of that is due to my inability to condense words. I tend to over-explain things, and I apologize for that. Because I get wordy, these steps look like they take way more time than they actually do. Once you get everything set up, the actual bill paying process is slick as snot!
If you use a bill paying service to pay your bills, this system probably won’t be of interest to you. For those of you who only have a couple of bills to pay each month, (in which case, I HATE YOU!), you too may not be interested. These instructions are written for those of you who are currently, or would like to, pay your bills online. If your preferred bill paying method is paying by check or using money orders, just adjust the processes below to fit your needs. Once you get yourself all set up, bill paying won’t seem like such a pain in the ass, and you’ll start feeling so organized you won’t be able to stand yourself!
For your convenience, we’ve linked the below numbered supply items to products available in our Amazon store.
This is where you’ll store your statements, payment confirmations, and ‘stage’ your bills to be paid.
This will be your inbox – the “holding pen” for all your mail. Make sure it’s wide enough to hold envelopes, magazines, etc., otherwise it’ll start to overflow and you’ll end up with a hot mess. If you like to open your mail as you get it, just be sure it makes it’s way back to your inbox.
Day-Timer (or similar planner)
This will be the brains for your record keeping. I used an old one I had laying around. Find one with pockets. You can order the “starter set” which will come with calendar, paper, dividers, etc. etc. I use a 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ size, but they come in smaller and larger sizes.
You’ll use these for recording your payments. You can set up your own columns and headings, or you can download the template below. Just make sure the pages fit your book size.
This file will eventually hold all your ATM and credit card receipts, and copies of written checks (If you use the checks with copies). For now, just put your file inside your inbox. As you clean out your purse or empty your pockets, dump all your receipts into your inbox. You’ll use your file to organize them later.
Other Stuff You’ll Need: Envelopes, stamps, paper clips, different colored highlighters, binder pockets, spiral notebook
The whole idea here is to have everything you need in one place. Grab, Pay, Put Away, Done.
Okay, belly up to your computer and lets get your accounts set up.
CREATING A HOME PAGE WITH BOOKMARKS
If you don’t already have a “Home Page” or “Start Page” set up on your computer, I would recommend it. A “Home Page” is the first page you see after you click your browser (i.e. Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc). You can choose any page to be your home page. The default settings on your computer may have your homepage come up as just the Google search bar. But why not have your computer open to a page that’s customized to your daily use?
I use Netvibes for my home page. It’s easy to set up, and provides the tools for me to set up easy access to pages and sites I visit frequently. You can add “widgets” to show your local weather forecast, your horoscope, local news, your Facebook and Twitter feed, etc. etc. It’s one-stop shopping with everything you use most frequently in one place. I’m sure there’s a lot more customization options, so if you’re interested, read through the Netvibes User Guide to add more to your page. For right now, all we need to do is get you set up to pay your bills. So, just create your account, click the + button on the top left, and add the “Bookmarks” widget to your page.
SETTING UP YOUR ONLINE BANK | CREDIT UNION ACCOUNT
You’ll need to set up online access to your bank account so that you’re able to check the activity in your checking account in the future. If you’re not sure how to set this up, just type in the name of your bank and there should be instructions on their site how to create a secure login and password for your account. If not, just give them a call and they’ll get you hooked up.
SETTING UP YOUR ONLINE BILL PAYING ACCOUNTS
If you haven’t been paying your bills online, you’ll need to create a secure access for each of your bills. Credit card companies, etc will usually list the link to their website somewhere on your monthly statement. When you set up each account, you’ll be creating a login and password for each. You’ll need a place to keep track of those, a reminder of when each bill is due, and a record of when you’ve paid them. So let’s get your record keeping system set up…
SETTING UP YOUR ACCOUNT PAGES
- Using the lined pages you bought, draw your own customized columns and titles, or use the printable template above (formatted for books using 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ pages). Enter the name of the Credit Card | Utility Company bill you’ll be paying next to “Account Name”. Use a separate page for each bill.
- Enter the date the bill is due each month
- Enter the login and password that you created for each account
- Put your pages in your Day-Timer in the order of bills due the 1st of the month through the 31st.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’re done with the set up, and you’re ready to pay some bills!
Clear off your desk or work area, get a cup of coffee (or a stiff drink), and get comfy. Get out your magazine file, your inbox, your spiral notebook, your favorite pen, your calculator, and your Day-Timer. Let’s do this!
PREPPING TO PAY
- Open up your bills and paper clip the payment envelope to the top of each statement.
- Write the due date on a Post-It note and stick it to the front of the statement. Do this for each bill. (You’ll do this each month, paper clipping the most current statement on top of the last month’s paid statement, as you prepare your bills to pay).
- Put your stack of paperclipped statements in your magazine file in order of due dates – due from the 1st to the 31st of the month.
- Take all the ATM and credit card receipts from your inbox and sort into month. File them in your expanding file folder according to month. (As you’re filing, write notes on receipts while the purchase is still fresh in your mind, which will help you at tax time)
Every time you sit down to pay your bills, whether you do it every week, or twice a month, first clean out your inbox. ‘Staging’ your bills by paperclipping the most current statement (with it’s envelope) on top of the previous month’s paid statement, and filing your receipts will keep you organized and efficient!
- Log in to your online bank account. Make sure that the bills you last paid have cleared your bank account. Check off the payments that have cleared on their account page in your Day-Timer.
- Get out your notebook. Write the bank’s balance on your page. Then subtract the payments you’ve made that haven’t yet cleared. Subtract any upcoming known expenses (groceries, entertainment, etc). This is the balance that you now have available.
- Open your homepage in another window so you’ll have access to all your bookmarked accounts. As you pay each bill, repeat this process:
Once you’ve paid, print a payment receipt. If you pay this bill by check, write the check #, payment amount and date on the current statement. If the bill is paid by automatic deduction, write the date on the statement as if you paid it.
Choose a highlighter color for the current month, and highlight the date paid. (Use a different color every month. This visual really helps me. I can quickly scan through my payment book to see what hasn’t yet been paid for the month).
Remove paperclipped envelope from that account’s statement. Staple the current statement with the printed payment receipt on top to the previously paid statement. Reattach your “due” Post-It to the top of the payment receipt.
Why I Like This System…
Stress-Free Tax Preparation
- When it’s time to do your taxes at the end of the year, you’ve got all your statements and payment information together. You just grab them from your magazine folder and put them in your tax prep folder.
- Your ATM receipts for gas, business expenses, etc. with your notes on them, are already filed by month. You just put your expanding folder into your tax prep folder.
Peace of Mind
- All the built in “visual” reminders help you keep on top of any potential problems such as missed payments or checks that haven’t cleared. This saves you money by avoiding unnecessary overdraft bank charges and late payment fees.
- Keeping a running balance as you record your payments, keeps you aware of your available bank balance allowing you to adjust and budget as you go.
I Feel Efficient and Organized
- All your bills and bill-paying supplies are kept in one place, so you’re not wasting time rounding up your bills.
- Having an organized, efficient system in place, I don’t hate the whole bill paying process like I used to.
- With everything being so tidy and organized, I can get my bills paid quickly, then move on to doing the things I enjoy.
Everyone is different and each of our minds work in different ways. After trying a bunch of bill paying methods, this is the one that has worked best for me. Just like they tell you when you attend a seminar, ‘if you only take away one idea you can use from this, it will be worth your time’. I so hope you found at least one helpful idea!