By now you have set your goals and have taken some baby-steps toward your goal. Now you are ready for the meaty stuff. Today you get your first assignment. This chore can change your life if you do it right. It is… Organize Your Bills!
If you are a neat freak you’ve just screamed “done!” I’ll get back to you in a minute. Now for those of you who are about to run-wait! Remember this is for you and it will help you change your financial health. I will walk you through the process. Remember bringing order to the money-stuff in your life will create clarity. Still scared? Then take a second to imagine this: There is a fabulous beach 50 paces in front of you, but the brush and weeds make the journey so frightening and unpredictable (are their creepy-crawly’s in there?) that you don’t move a muscle. That first step toward the beach retreat is never taken.
Now imagine you had the tools to cut through the brush and carve a clear path to the beach. Those 50-paces would be no big deal! Right? Organizing the papers, shoe-boxes or piles is clearing the brush. So lets get started.
Two Ground Rules
1) Pick a time when you aren’t under the gun. Set aside two-four hours.
2) Mentally prepare that things will get a lot messier before they get cleaner- that is why budgeting plenty of time is important
Here is the Money Confidante approach to organizing your bills- adapt it to fit your needs.
* Find all of your unpaid bills. Did you know pay bills on time which cuts back on late fees and immediately starts to improve your credit rating?
* De-clutter before you pay. Get rid of all unneeded paper with those bills. If you pay online get rid of payment envelopes and those annoying advertisements. *Shred everything that has personal info and recycle the generic stuff.
* Front and center. Have easy visible access to what needs to be paid and put the important and timely stuff on top. Do not file bills away until they are paid- you will forget about them. I like clear trays but you don’t need to buy anything to do this step.
* Assign a day each week to bill pay. Yep I said once a week. Once a month is not enough and it creates stress. If you have any fear that you will run out of cash- pay your most important bills first and then organize by due date.
* Pay online. Pay as many of your bills as possible online. You will save time and money on stamps. But most importantly you will know when the bill was paid. Mailing bills leaves the “received payment time” to chance. Paying some bills even 15 minutes late could cause you to get a 30 days late penalty on your credit report. Yep. Blew my mind too. So pay early not late and pay online when possible.
* Shred and file: Once a bill is paid – decide if you need to keep it or if you should shred it. My rule of thumb is this- if I will need it for taxes or to help me budget I file it- otherwise I shred. Still not sure- no harm in filing it away.
* Oops I can’t pay them all. If this happens to you (probably the reason you didn’t want to organize in the first place) relax. Now I want you to figure out what you owe and to whom. See if you an do a reduced payment or create a payment plan. If not what can you do to raise some extra cash? Got a designer handbag or fab pair of shoes you never wore that you can sell online? Do you have skills that can earn you extra cash as a tutor or instructor? Get a plan and get rid of the dark cloud of unpaid bills.
* Repeat. This is your new way of dealing with bills. Okay you may be a little sore (emotionally) its like the first time to the gym after a break. But that soon fades and I promise you will like how this new way of life feels after a few weeks.
And for you neat freaks- the organizing may come easy but follow the rest of the rules about paying the urgent stuff first and then develop a calendar for everything else. Since organizing is your thing- I expect to see spread sheets or wall charts that show your plan of attack! Make me proud and share your stories! Remember hearing about both victories and setbacks helps everyone.