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Organizing bills

Finances have always been a great anathema to me. I was never good at math. Trying to calculate numbers in my head makes my eyes glaze over.

Before we used computers, it would take me an hour to balance the checkbook because I would mess up calculations even with a calculator. My poor checkbook register was full of white-out and strikethroughs (because if you mess up the number on the top of the list and discover it later, you have to rewrite the totals for the entire page!)

Fortunately, Intuit invented Quicken and my life got easier… kind of. Until recently it still took me forever to do bills. It either seemed to dominate my life or I would find errors or there would be missing transactions (because I am a balance-to-the-penny type of person).

So here is the system I use now and it works great!

I wrote in a previous post how I use file jackets and a magazine holder to organize the papers on my desk.

One of these file jackets is for bills. Every time my husband gives me a receipt, it goes in the jacket. A bill comes in the mail, or something I need to buy — it goes in the jacket. Anything financially-related goes in the jacket.

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I do this for a week. Then, every Friday, I pull everything out. All the papers are separated into two piles: receipts in one, and bills/things to pay in the other.

I enter all the receipts in Quicken and then file them in my expanding file.

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I’ve used this expanding file for years. It is a bit worn and well-loved as it is faithfully served its purpose of keeping one year’s worth of receipts. There is a red card that sticks up at the current month so I can stick the receipts in without even really looking. (And this photo shows evidence of weakness where once in a while I splurge on a Levenger purchase for organizational stuff… which, alas, is few and far between now that I have to save my allowance for my jewelry hobby!).

(Since this expanding file only holds a year’s worth of receipts, I just toss them after a year after looking to see if there are any I should keep long term. However, most receipts I know I should keep long term for taxes automatically go into my file cabinet and not the expanding file.)

Next comes checks to deposit. These are signed and put in a deposit envelope and put on hubby’s desk, as he is the Designated Family Check Depositer. He likes to ride his bike to the bank and kills two birds with one stone—exercise and pad the bank account at the same time. What a deal!

Then come bills. Auto-pay bills are entered into Quicken and filed in my file cabinet which is directly behind my chair, within arm’s reach (because I am lazy and know I will never file anything if I have to walk across the room or house!).

Bills to be paid are reconciled in Quicken (such as credit cards). Before, half the transactions would be missing because I was not all that systematic about entering receipts. But with this new system, almost all transactions are there, thus speeding up time! Then I stamp them with a date stamp, showing they are entered in Quicken, and put them on hubby’s desk as he is also the Designated Family Bill Payer. When he is done paying, he writes the confirmation number and puts it back on my desk and in it goes into the jacket, to be entered into Quicken for next week.

But what about online transactions, you ask? These do not have paper receipts. Ah, good thing you asked!

Being in Davis, it would be politically incorrect to print out all the receipts on paper…. not a green thing to do. I try to do my part in saving the environment as a Davis citizen. So, I have created a folder in my email program called “Bills.” When my husband purchases something and sends me the receipt, I stick the email in this folder. Then, on Fridays during bill paying times, I record all these transactions at once into Quicken.

So, this new system is working beautifully. I am no longer drowning in paper receipts and email receipts cluttering up my inbox. Mail and bills are immediately processed and put into the file jacket. I only do bills once a week and all our bills are paid on time and everything is filed away immediately. No more stress, clutter, and feelings of impending doom wondering if we are forgetting anything or lagging in our payments.

I love being organized!

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