For all of the last almost 28 years of my life, I’ve been obsessed with organization (insert “understatement of the year laugh”, mom). I’ve also been quite adept at financial matters. Balancing my checkbook in high school home economics was kind of thrilling, and resulted in my very first checking account at age 16 from the local family-owned and operated bank. I’ve always been very aware of my spending and like to say that I’m not a shopaholic if I know exactly where each dollar is going (#justification).
That said, since being married in 2010, finances and saving have become something totally different. I want to save more but I’m so used to not saving that it has stayed that way. My old system isn’t working for me anymore and I need a revamp! Mama needs a second car and a trip to Bora Bora!
As a result, I’ve created a 3 phase process to getting on top of our finances. Phase 1 is presented here, with my 2013 Household Bill Binder! Phase 2 is Budgeting and Phase 3 is Cash Flow, to be presented likely over the next two months.
As I created my binder, I listed each step that I took so that you may follow along for your own!
(1) Purchase bill binder pieces. I purchased a 2″ 3-ring binder, 2 packages of 8 dividers with tabs, a 3-ring pocket folder, and a 3-ring zipper pocket for my pen, calculator, post-its, etc.
(3) Use the Account Summary to list all of your monthly bills, even if paid automatically via credit card, or if a given month might have a $0 balance (for example, a Banana Republic credit card). Include their close date, due date and total balance, if fixed. If variable (most credit cards and some utilities), then leave it blank for now.
The easiest way to complete this data dump is by reviewing your check register, any digital tracking system (such as Quicken or Mint.com), and any pending bills. Think of your mortgage/housing, auto, insurance (health, renters, homeowners, etc.), student loans, other loans, utilities, all credits cards, and memberships (gym, Massage Envy, etc.). Annual costs count too!
(4) For the current month, January in my case, record every bill by the due date on the monthly calendar page. Record actual amounts next to each item once known. I only put the monthly recurring items on the calendar up front, then when a variable bill comes up (such as a Banana Republic purchase) then I’ll add that as needed.
Record dates of paychecks (if on a regular schedule) by highlighting the outline of the date box – I used pink.
Then you’ll need to schedule time on your calendar to pay bills twice per month to align with payment due dates and cash flow of paychecks. I highlighted the date box yellow (not shown, but I selected the day after each paydate – oops!) to designate when I plan to sit down for bill payments this month and I noted the “thru” date for bills to pay. I also noted this date on my master calendar so I don’t forget!
If you have an autoDEBIT bill, I recommend putting an asterisk next to the name of that bill to remind yourself to verify your checking account balance BEFORE those bills are autodebited. No bueno if your balance is less than the cost of that bill!
(5) Based on the list created in Step 3, take all of your regular, monthly recurring bills and create a tab for them. You can label with general terms or specific company names (“ComEd” vs. “Electric”). You can also combine items as you wish (“Gas & Electric” or even, “Utilities”). This is where you’ll place the hard copy bill once it’s paid. Create tabs based on whatever works for you. This is just a place to store bills processed already and to refer back to them as needed at the end of the year.
(6) Snap all pieces into the binder and move on to Implementation!
(1) As soon as you receive a bill, take it directly to your binder and place it in the front pocket folder. Don’t place it into the specific tab yet – that’s for after you pay the bill. Add the total amount of your bill to the monthly calendar record. You should have already written the item on the due date, but you might need to add the total amount.
NOTE: If you have any bills set to “auto pay” to your master credit card (not auto debit to checking – only credit card), do not put the individual totals onto the monthly calendar. Simply take the bill and file it into the individual folder, as the total for your master credit card bill will reflect this bill.
(2) On your next bill payment date, take your binder out and pay your bills. You can pay online or via check, whichever is more convenient for you. Just make sure if paying via check that you have enough time for the check to arrive with the date you’ve selected to pay your bills.
(3) Once the bills are paid and done, file the documentation into the individual tab, close your binder, and repeat Steps 1-3 as bills and bill payment dates come up.
(4) Sit back, relax, and enjoy never having to miss a bill payment date for forgetfulness!
This binder needs some decoration…stay tuned for some bill binder flair!
I did so much research on this topic and ultimately adapted this binder to my requirements. This method can work for even those who don’t have any credit cards or debt. We all have to pay utilities and rent/mortgage, right?
Let’s be honest, I’m not the first person to create a bill binder in this manner. I am the original designer of my calendar pages, though, and you can use them in your own binder by downloading these free printables here. Consider this my way of saying “thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll be back”! Please don’t copy, pass off as your own, or crop out the copyright statement.
I truly hope this makes your life easier as it relates to bills and keeping your household organized. Nothing is more important to me than NOT thinking about stuff like this on a regular basis, so I’m thrilled that I finally have a way to be confident in our finances. Don’t forget to check back for the Budgeting and Cash Flow in February and March! That’s when the real savings begins.
Please leave a comment about your new household bill binder or any questions or comments you have about mine! Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Twitter to be kept in the loop on updates and new ways to organize. Thanks and enjoy!