Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Motivation: Handling Paperwork - Mail and Bills

If you're overwhelmed with paperwork, do this step first.

Now that all of your bills are compiled into one central place, you'll want to sort them again.  This time, sort them into sub-categories.

First, remove all bills that are current and must be paid into their own pile.  Don't misplace this pile!  You'll need to tend to it sooner than later. 

Next, decide how you want to sort your bills.  These are the bills/receipts you've already paid.  These should be kept until the end of the year for tax purposes or to help you prepare next years budget.  You don't really need to keep bills that are over a year old when you get a statement and pay your bills every month.  I've never referred back to a 2 year old cell phone bill - just sayin'!   You can sort them in a few different ways.  Alphabetically or by type (power, phone, automobile, medical).

We file ours alphabetically.   First comes Auto, then Banking, then College, then Dentist, etc.   We use an accordion file that has pockets for each letter.  Since we don't have too many bills, this works for us.  We also use this accordion file to store warranty information, lists of magazine subscriptions, library cards, etc.   

Another option is to use hanging files.  These files can be stored in a file cabinet or a portable file box.  There are also some really attractive counter top file boxes.   If you use hanging files, you can also use smaller manila files as sub-folders within them.  There is no right or wrong option.  Whatever works for you is fine.

Now that all of your bill receipts are filed, you can turn your attention to your current bills that need to be paid.  The method we use is very primitive - we're still very much in the old fashioned paper bill paying world.  Maybe we'll change one day.  We just find something very "safe" about touching the bills we pay.  Plus, it's a little more "painful" to write a check than to click "pay bill" online. 

  When our bills come in the mail, we immediately open them up, throw the junk filler stuff into the shredder and fold the envelope around the bill to be paid.  Then we write the day we need to mail the bill in the upper right hand corner of the envelope where the stamp will cover it up.  Then we use an antique napkin holder that my grandfather made to hold the bills; with the next bills to be paid sitting in front of the stack.  Here's a
modern day version that would work well.

 Every week we check the holder and pull out any bills we need to pay.  We reconcile the statement with any receipts we have before paying the bill. 

  Before filing the statement in our accordion file, we write the date, the amount paid, and the check number on the paperwork.  If I have to call the company about the bill, I write the name of the person I talked to as well as the date and time and what information I gleaned from the phone call onto the statement.  This little tip has been very helpful when handling discrepancies.  There's not too much arguing when you can name the person, date, and time you first called about a problem. 

Is your mail overwhelming you?  When you bring your mail into your home, handle it immediately.  Stand over your recycling bin and toss any junk mail.  Take any mail that has your personal info on it and shred it.  Place magazines into the magazine basket, place invites into your day planner so you can RSVP and plan to buy a gift or send a card. 

Cut out coupons and put them in your purse, coupon organizer, or set them with your keys to keep in your car.  I keep all of my coupons for stores in my car so I will always have them available without lugging them in my purse. 

Next week, we'll handle more general household paperwork.

*Any links to products in this post are affiliate links.

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