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     Pay The Bills, Then Get On With Life

As the old saying goes, “Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.” However, we can add one more item to that list, BILLS. Whether they come via snail mail, e-mail or online, you will always have bills in your life. How do you handle the paper? What do you really need to keep?

Without getting into a whole other topic of managing incoming mail, when you sort through your incoming mail, immediately pull out the bills and put them in a DESIGNATED area. You can use the traditional bill holder with a few slots, decorative basket with a lid, or something similar. Whatever you use, make sure it is in a convenient spot near where you drop your keys and the rest of the mail. Also, try to spend a few extra minutes opening the bills and DISCARDING the outer envelope as well as the envelope stuffers. That way you have eliminated extra paper quickly and easily.

Try to get as many recurring bills on AUTOMATIC payment as possible. Mortgage, phone, utility, and cable companies make it very easy for you to have money auto-drafted (or charged to a credit card) from your account to make your monthly payments. Once it is set-up, the money is automatically withdrawn from your account each month. You don’t even have to THINK about sitting down and writing a check.

Designate two specific times on your calendar for paying bills during the month. Most people find somewhere around the MIDDLE and the END of the month to work well. Then block out time on those days to work on bill payment and financial management.

Writing checks can be a very TIME-CONSUMING process. You need to write the check, tear off the remittance advice, put the check and paperwork in the envelope, make sure you have stamps available, and mail the payment. Even if you only have a few bills a month, that can take time. Consider using ONLINE banking for many of your bills. It does take set-up time, but as with most organizing projects, if you invest a small amount of time now, you’ll save a lot of time in the future.

Although quite numerous, financial management files are some of the easiest to set up. A quick and dirty system can involve an ACCORDION folder with monthly or alpha tabs. After you pay a bill in a certain month, file it in the corresponding month or alphabetic pocket (based on the company name). A more detailed system involves hanging folders and file folders. Create main CATEGORIES for the hanging folders such as:
  • household
  • banking
  • credit cards
  • insurance
  • taxes
Then create INTERNAL file folders for each of your bank accounts, credit cards, household payees (mortgage, utilities, maintenance, etc.), tax information, and charitable donations.

Whatever system you choose for your files, you can lighten the load by knowing WHAT to keep and for how LONG.
  • TAX related documents must be kept for seven years
  • insurance POLICIES can be tossed once they expire
  • home and auto records should be kept for as long as you OWN the property
At the end of each year, clear out your active files, and ARCHIVE the rest in an out of the way place. Papers won’t pile up from not having a place to be stored.

The paperwork created from bills can be daunting. If you choose to IGNORE it you’re stuck with late fees and finance charges. Develop a SYSTEM using the recommendations above, and you’ll save time and money.


Lori Krolik is a professional organizer and productivity specialist based in Palo Alto, California. She is the founder of More Time For You and creator of the instructional CD "Organize Your Home...And Life!" Lori has been helping people get organized and work more productively for over 15 years. To learn more about Lori and her methodology, visit www.moretimeforyou.net or www.trainingsmartinc.com

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