It’s that time of year again – time to empty out my bill folders and reset my Due Bills system for the new year.
I detailed my Due Bills system a few years ago here, and I tend to share it each year at the end of December. The key part of the system is the monthly folders, and the only adjustments I have made over the years is the method in which I track bills as they come in and record payments.
Here is a brief overview of my Due Bills system:
- Stand-alone hanging file folder box (I’m still using my original box, and it is due to be retired soon…)
- 12 manilla folders labelled for each month
- Tax Documents folder
- Basic monthly-style calendar
- Record sheet for due dates, amounts, confirmation numbers, etc.
- 12 envelopes labeled for monthly receipts
Before the new year starts, I set up the file folder box. In the front, I have a folder labeled taxes for all incoming tax documents I am expecting.
In each monthly folder, I include a record sheet and an envelope for receipts. I fill all the folders at the beginning of the year so I am not scrambling at the beginning of any month.
Beginning of the month
By establishing a routine, I ensure bills are not misplaced,forgotten or payed late. At the beginning of each month (or even at the very end of the previous month) I do several things:
- Check all account balances (Checking, Savings, any credit cards) and record at top of record sheet (I check all balances again mid-month and have a second column to record updated balances).
- List all recurring due bills (name, due date and amount due if known). Bills like cable, utilities, mortgage typically have the same due dates each month, and this makes planning easier.
- On calendar, add list due bills on their due dates. I highlight in yellow (my Due Bills color) so I can scan the calendar quickly and due dates stand out.
- Move any unpaid bills from previous month’s folder to current folder and list on record sheet. Things like subscription renewals or even tax payments that have a few months to pay would be handled this way.
- Pay all bills due before the middle of the month. If I am sending a check, I record the check number on record sheet. Electronic payments, I record the confirmation numbers. I also note the date payed for each.
- For any bills that I have a paper statement, I record date payed, amount payed and either check number or confirmation number.
Middle of the month
Our bills typically are due in two waves, at the earlier part of the month, and close to the end. Any bill due on the first of the next month, I list as a payment due at the end of the previous month – this ensures it gets payed on time.
Sometime between the 15th and 20th of each month, I sit down and recheck all account balances, and then pay all outstanding bills for the month, following the same steps listed above.
While many bills are recurring, we do occasionally get one-time statements in the mail. For these, I add to the folder as soon as they come in, list the due date and amount on the record sheet, and immediately list on my calendar.
Some bills are quartly or once-a-year – these I file in the month they are due, and mark on the calendar. This ensures that something due six months in advance doesn’t get lost or forgotten.
While I typically do not store non-bill related paperwork in my monthly folders, the one exception I do make is record of any reimbursment. This isn’t common however. If we received a paper reimbursement check, I would store in that month’s folder in case I needed record of it at tax time.
**Autodraft payments are recorded on the record sheet, along with the due date (date it is expected to draft) and the amount. I regularly check my bank account and as I see autodraft payments clearing my account, I note the confirmation number and mark it as payed on my calendar.
I like to have a Taxes folder at the front of my box to collect any documents as they come in. Tax documents, ranging from various 1098s to our W2s start arriving early to mid-January, but I won’t sit down and prepare our taxes until closer to April when I am sure I have received everything. After tax season is complete, my filed and printed tax returns will go into this folder, and it will move from my bill box into my regular file drawer with previous tax year records.
**In previous years, I have maintained a Medical Receipt folder to collect receipts for doctor appointments or prescriptions. This is used to itemize medical expenses at tax time. We haven’t had to itemize in the past few years, however, and so these receipts tend to be filed with any other receipts.
In the past, I have just kept all receipts that come in, and sort through them at the end of the year for anything of importance. But that system gets unwieldy pretty quick.
Now I check my receipts throughout the month, usually when I clean out my purse and wallet. Most receipts are groceries or consumables that won’t be returned, and so they go into the trash or shredder. Medical receipts and bank deposit receipts are always retained.
If the receipt contains something of higher value (like an electronic or hardware item) I toss into an envelope in the monthly folder. Anything of importance that my spouse has purchased, he gives me the receipt to set aside as well. If i need a receipt, I should be able to go back to the month I purchased the item and retrieve it.
This system works! I’ve been doing this for several years now, and it keeps me organized and our bills payed on time.
I am including the record sheet that I use – feel free to use the PDF or grab the Word file and modify to suit your own needs.