Bills, Bills and More Bills!

Unfortunately, everyone I know has bills to pay at some point.

The least I can do, is help make the bill paying experience less painful, less stressful and quicker to complete.  Let's get started!

First point of order: collect all the bills you can find around the house.  Start by making a list of which vendors are sending bills by mail: credit card companies, department stores, doctor's offices, schools, utilities, rent/mortgage.  All of it!  Keep whichever bill is most recent from each vendor handy.  We'll need these later.

If you're paying bills online already, make a similar list of which bills you're receiving online.

Next, open your wallet or purse.  Are there any cards in there that remind you of another vendor that you'll receive a bill from, but didn't find one in the mail pile or receive one online?  Add it to your list of vendors.

Now that you have one copy of each of those bills handy, next to the vendor name on your master list, write down what day each month that bill is due.  For example, is it always due on the first of the month like rent?  Or, is your Master Card bill due the 12th every month, while your Visa Card is due on the 18th?  Keep these dates; they will help you with budgeting (which is a discussion for another time).

Now, stack your bills in order of DUE date, with the date closest to now on top (the bill that is due next).  If you're sticking with a paper system, these bills should go, in this order, where they won't be lost or forgotten.  This might be in a paper sorter on a counter or desk like this one.  Vertical is always better than horizontal because you can easily add new bills that come in to the back of the stack, and paper won't get lost in a pile.  It's much easier to stack paper on top of paper and forget what's on the bottom than it is to stick paper behind other papers and not be able to leaf through it quickly.

If you are or would like to go as paperless as possible, find out which of these vendors offer online bill payment options.  Most do.  Go to their websites (located on the bill itself, most likely) and follow the steps for setting up a bill payment system where bills will be emailed to you, reducing your paper clutter.  If it's not realistic for you to pay these bills the day they arrive in your inbox, then create a similar filing system in your email.  Label it bills, and move them emails there.  Or, forward them to yourself with the due date as the subject line.  It makes paying the ones due first a one glance job.

If your bank account can withstand it, it might be a good idea to sign up for automatic deductions, too.  This means when your bill for Department Store X is due, the vendor automatically withdraws payment from another (likely checking) account.  This is most useful for bills that are generally the same amount each month like cable/Internet bills, rent or gym memberships.  But, then you simply receive an email confirmation stating that your bill was paid and what amount was withdrawn.  You can still access and view your statements, should a discrepancy arrive.

The moral of the story is: One bill at a time from each vendor, in order of due date, with as little work from you as possible!

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