Harris Interactive reports that 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them.
Dealing with bills can feel like a never-ending battle. They come in, you have to put them somewhere, then you have to pay them, then you have to store them, then more come in. To make it even more difficult now, some bills come in the mail and others come by email, and others come with a link to go fetch it yourself.
Bills have two distinct stages: To be paid and Paid. And there are endless ways to store these items depending on your organizing needs.
These suggestions are ideas for keeping the storage and organization as simple as possible.
Bills to be Paid
The “Everything In” person prefers to put things away and get them out of sight. This means less of a visual trigger to remember to pay the bills on time so in addition to setting up storage, you may also want to set up a reminder alert to make payments. The only container you need is a simple file or magazine box. Put all of your bills to be paid into the file (marked “to pay”) and pay them weekly. Pay all of the bills in the file and you will not have late payments.
Many people also like to set up a “tickler” system to tickle the brain and remind you to pay the bills. A tickler system is a system with folders numbered 1-31 and you put the bills in the files based on when you will pay the bill (about a week before the due date). In my opinion this is usually more organization than necessary. If you pay all the bills in your one, simple file each week religiously, you don’t have to file them by date.
A simple tickler file can be made with files or buy one pre-made. These are two examples of tickler files that can sit on your desk or go into a file drawer.
When bills come by email: Set up a folder in your email system marked “bills to pay” and when you pay the paper bills, also pay the electronic bills.
The “Everything Out” person prefers to keep things out where you can see them so you don’t forget where they are as a reminder to do something. But if you leave them on the desk, they can easily get lost under the pile of other stuff that is out so you don’t forget about it.
For you there are a couple of good options. Put a magazine box or a paper tray on your desk marked “bills to pay”. Whenever a bill comes in the mail, open it and put the contents in the box or tray (toss the envelope). When bills come by email, print the bill out or put a note in the file to remind you to pay that bill. Remember if you don’t see it, you could easily forget.
Then pay all the bills in the box every week religiously and you’ll never miss a payment again.
Storing Paid Bills
After bills are paid they need to go somewhere. If you are not saving the bill for taxes, I suggest you shred the bill. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with this. Even though you know you probably don’t need the bill, something inside you thinks it’s safer if you hang onto it for a while. If this is you, then create a file or shoe box or better looking box for the “paid bills”. If you put your bills in each month, they will be in reverse chronological order. There is no need to organize them further because you probably won’t need them.
If you save bills for taxes you will want to create a file for each type of bill (gas, electric, phone, internet, etc.) Put your bills into each file with the newest one in front. At the end of the year, pull all the bills out and store them with your tax documents that you file.
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