• Cheryl Libutti

How To Adult: Bill Paying Center

I'm launching a new series of blog posts today that I'm calling "How to Adult"... these are things that I see many people struggle with and can suggest a simple method to tackle the issue and get it more under control.

(Today I was with my 13-year-old daughter at the bank and then the grocery store. She said to me, "I'm such an adult!" and I corrected her, saying, "Well, you are adult-ING. You are only 13. That is not an adult." Though many teenage girls THINK they are adults, they actually are not... but I like to instill some lessons about how to adult, making the word a verb. My definition of adulting would be this: to behave responsibly, to make decisions rationally, to think of and understand consequences of one's actions, and do things that sometimes are necessary but not fun.)

So today we are going to look at paying bills.

Many clients I work with have trouble keeping on top of bills. They rarely open their mail, it floats around the house, and they either pay bills late or not at all. There is no designated space for either the bills waiting to get paid nor the completed, paid bills. Many pay bills online because they have trouble finding their checkbook. If this sounds familiar, please know you are not alone.

I have developed a simple, easy-to-keep-up-with system for my own bill paying that might be helpful.

I personally use and recommend the check-sized 13 Pocket Coupon File from The Container Store. It's durable and the sections have rainbow-colored tabs, which make me happy when I look at them.

I use the smaller sized holder for my bills.

I labeled sections for “Bills to be Paid”, Jan- Mar, Apr-June, Jul-Sept, Oct- Dec. I also labeled one section for each of my credit cards and debit card to keep the terms and conditions information.

This is how it works:

When I get a bill in the mail, I immediately put it into my Coupon File holder behind the tab labeled "TO BE PAID".

I usually pay my bills around the middle of the month. I sit down, take out all my bills waiting to be paid and go through them. Some I pay online and some I write checks for (donations, medical bills, and the water and sewer bill).

When the bill is paid, I note the date, check number or write "paid online", and the amount on the bill. I love to write "paid in full" if I have paid off that particular debt- so satisfying!!

Then I file that bill into the correct monthly section. When I am done paying the month's bills, I take out last year's bills from this month and either file (very rarely), shred or toss the old bills.

Example: I paid my June 2018 bills on the 15th of the month from my “Bills to be Paid” section. I place the paid bills in the April-June section and look for old bills from June 2017 in that same section. I toss or shred those 2017 bills. Now my April-June section has only 2018 bills from April 2018, May 2018, and June 2018, where they will live until next April, May and June of 2019. This way I can reference any question I might have and easily find the information.

Also in your Bill Pay System, you should ideally have these items in a binder, notebook or folder:

  • monthly budget worksheet

  • list of all recurring bills and due dates

  • stamps

  • return address labels

  • blank envelopes

  • calculator

What I like about this system is that it's really just a two step process- place bills in the Coupon File Holder and once a month go through and pay & file them. Easy-peasy.

I keep my Coupon File Holder in a cabinet right above my command center. It is totally automatic (aka I don't use any brain power or thought at all) for me to place bills into the TO BE PAID section when I open the mail. Nothing gets lost or misplaced.

I can whip through my monthly bill paying in about 45 minutes, including addressing envelopes, filing, and logging into websites to pay online.

It doesn't make Bill Paying fun, but at least it's panic-free.

Next post I will make suggestions about budgeting and organizing your bill due dates. I can hear you groaning! But it's all part of- you guessed it- ADULTING.

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