Keeping track of and paying bills is one of those things you rarely practice till you have to do it. If you’re lucky like I was, you have parents who taught by example. Still it can be a whole new ballgame when you’re keeping track of all the ends that you must make meet. One of the easiest ways to stay on top of paperwork is to set aside a place for it and a time to take care of it.
Set up a mail center close to where you get your mail. It can literally be right inside your front door. Or if you go to the kitchen for a snack when you first get home, set the mail center up in the kitchen. If you change clothes first, then the bedroom might be a better spot.
Everyone will establish a system that works best for them. Some have started to deal with bills and payments electronically. Others, like me, find themselves handling a mix of paper bills, some that can be paid online, others that require paper checks unless I want to pay a fee to handle them electronically, which I refuse to pay. I’m rebellious that way. So systems are going to differ from person to person. But if you want an idea of how to get started, I can tell you how my system works for me and you can build your personalized system from there.
I found a wire caddy that holds hanging folders. I have one hanging folder for each quarter and individual folders within those hanging ones for each month within the quarter. I also have a hanging folder in the front of the caddy labeled Process.
Along with my caddy, I have a shredder and a trashcan (need to get a combo) together at the desk where I open all my mail. I can stand in one spot and sort through, throw out what I can, shred what I need to and throw the rest in the process folder. On those days when I am in a hurry with no time to even look at what came in, I throw it all in the process folder.
Nothing gets lost or misplaced or otherwise forgotten.
Notes and reminders will also make their way into my process folder. Everything I need to pay, do, schedule, call, file or otherwise process waits patiently for me at home base.
Once a week (my day happens to be Tuesday) I sit down and work my way through the process folder.
So what are the monthly folders for? I keep paid bills with confirmation numbers or copies of the checks in the monthly folders. I also empty purse/wallet every week and toss receipts in the monthly folders. Then I have them if I need to return an item and also to compare with my statements as they come in.
Once a month I try to go through the entire caddy and make sure I’ve filed things that need to be filed elswhere and I put tax-related items in a binder so that I have all my documentation in one spot at the end of the year.
Doesn’t that sound easy? It is when I stay on top of it. I’m not so good at updating the tax records regularly, but I’m getting there.
I am also trying to switch to an electronic program that will compile the tax records at the same time I pay the bills but I’m dragging my heals. Which translates into: I haven’t quite pushed myself out of my comfort zone to learn a new, and probably better, system.
What about you? Do you have any tips for handling the paper that comes into your home via the mail box? What about keeping track of bills and payments electronically? Do you have a system/program you prefer?
I’m always learning!