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Organizing 101: Filing Your Bills Neatly

by Mike

This post is brought to you by The Digerati Life, a blog on personal finance, saving, and investing, brought to you from the heart of Silicon Valley.

When the bills come in, most of us have a bad habit of piling them all up in one basket and forgetting about them. If you’ve consolidated all your bill payments online or already do online bill pay, you can probably get away with setting aside your paper statements (if you still receive them) till later. But if you still pay your bills manually, you’ll want to keep track of your billing statements.

So don’t toss them into a generic basket. Get file folders or nifty checkbook organizers instead. Then make sure that you keep your bill organizers somewhere you’ll see them often — somewhere visible, say by your kitchen pantry or on your work table.

Most bills are letter size, so they’d fit neatly into your checkbook organizers. While you may have to ignore the alphabetical labels that these things sometimes have, the multiple pockets are great for organizing your bills. They may even share some pockets with other paperwork, forms and documents, like bank statements. Here is a sample of how you could file your bills and statements in your organizer:

  • Urgent: Credit Cards (e.g. Your Amex Blue Cash, Chase Freedom Ultimate Rewards card or Discover card bills)
  • Urgent: Electricity
  • Not So Urgent: Cable
  • Paid: Credit Cards
  • Paid: Electricity
  • Bank Account Statements (e.g. your HSBC Advance, Wells Fargo, US Bank forms)
  • Mutual Fund Company / Investment Account Statements

When you file things accordingly, it will be easier to track. Determine which bills you’ve paid, which bills you will still have to address, which ones you’ll be needing to throw out. You’ll also be able to see your bank statements and other documents, like investment receipts, mutual fund receipts, etc., all in one place.

This new habit will not only help you keep track of these bills and documents, but keeping them all in one place helps you save time, as well as your sanity. Don’t you just hate it when you start looking for a certain bank statement, but can’t find it and now you’re turning your house upside-down just to track it down? Well, being organized will help you avoid that madness.

Keeping paper bills neatly filed saves a lot of time and energy, especially when you need to refer to past payments when issues come up, like double-billing, or when you’ve noted down some things on those specific paper bills.

Filing paper bills can also be one tool to help you keep track of your spending patterns and trends; it helps you review where your money is going and how much you’re paying off each month. This way, you’ll be able to understand your cash flow better. Should you need to make adjustments and improvements to your budget, it’s easier to draw up a solution, because you can see the patterns, as you’ve filed your bills neatly.

At the end of the year, it may be safe to throw out or recycle your bills. But if you’re paranoid that something may come up, you can always dump them in bigger folders and keep them in a box, ready for you to refer to, should the need arise.

The bottom line is, there is virtue to being a squirrel about documents. And a complementary virtue to that is being organized about keeping them.

Written by Silicon Valley Blogger

This article was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

I prefer emailed statements and auto-pay so that even they can be filed away as soon as you check them for errors. Some bills still require paper statements, but they immediately get paid online or on the phone and shredded. The credit cards all have the same cycle, so I pay all of them by the 18th of the month.

This system has made it where I am on top of all of the bills for errors, but I’ve never missed a payment or received a late fee. Since I’m only an organized person online, this helps my house too. :-)

Reply

Mike

I try to do as much online as possible too, but I still like to receive old-fashioned paper statements. I know it’s a bit wasteful but they serve as a reminder if nothing else.

And I think this filing system could be adapted for online use too. Just use electronic folders instead of real life ones!

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