Monday, October 12, 2009

The way we manage our bills

It's very simple. Scan, pay and shred.

We are almost entirely paperless in our management of our household documents. It became very overwhelming to have several folders of bills, tax returns, health care things......it was too much paperwork to store. To alleviate our stress we decided to go paperless as much as possible. We've been this way for 4 years now. For those bills we can get online statements for we took that option. There are some that send the paper version. We use a program called PaperPort to scan our documents. It converts the scanned document into a digital file. We chose to make everything a .pdf since that was easiest for us and our needs. The best part about this product is its "stacking" ability. You can scan a pile today and three days later if you have more to scan that belongs in the first pile all you do is scan the new pile of documents. When you are finished scanning you drag the new pile onto the previous pile and now it's all one document! Amazing and easy and perfect for scanning bills. There is no need to re-save the document. It saves the changes and saves you loads of time.

Our bills come all month long, but generally at the beginning and end of the month is when most arrive. We have broken the month in half based on the bimonthly arrival of our income. When there are two people involved with paying bills, with two different organization styles, it can be tricky to maintain sanity. He prefers to take care of the bills as they come in but he didn't have any organization to the process. It made for a very confusing process for me because sometimes he would scan the bills but not pay them or pay them and not scan them or pay and scan but not shred. Without witnessing his actions I became slightly irritated. Since the bills come throughout the month I needed to have some sort of structure to this process, otherwise it makes me crazy. I decided the easiest thing to do was use sticky notes as labels. As the bills come in, regardless of the day of week, we open them and put them in a pile on our desk. We use three labels based on our different styles and the payment method of our bills. One was "need to scan and pay", another was "scanned need to pay" and another "paid need to scan" on them. We have to do this so that both my husband and I know where we are with those bills. This has since improved our process as I made it clear to the husband that if he insists on being disorganized with the bills that I will leave the entire process to him alone and gladly find other things to cause me grief. He has agreed to keep his own organization methods to non-financial things.

Tuesday is financial day for me. Every Tuesday I process our bills. Tuesday was a good choice since there are very few Federal Holidays on Tuesdays and I can pretty much guarantee that what I need to do will be done without interruption. I scan the bills and other documents. We scan all things that are household related from the vet checkup to automotive service. Bills go in a Bills folder broken down by year and then month. We have other folders for non-bills and they are categorized by year. Once the bills have been scanned I schedule to payment through our bank or the website. Once I have completed the payment I shred the bills. I'm not done though. I open up Money and log all the posted items from our bank account. I then work on future budgeting for the month ahead. I put in the fixed debts such as mortgage, student loans, donations, insurance, etc. Then I put in those other debts that vary such as water, gas, cellphone, land line, credit card, etc. The latter are estimates based on the current month's bill. Other things like groceries and gasoline are put in as they occur but we do have a general budgeted amount that we stay within for those expenditures.

This process has saved space and time. I no longer need to have shelves/organizers to keep the bill payment in order nor do I need to determine what has been paid. No one likes to do their bills and balance the checkbook but this process has certainly made it less awful and helps me look ahead. With all our bills scanned I don't need to worry about trying to find that one to dispute something or remember what was spent on the water bill last October. I just pull it up and there it is. This program is also great for non-bills/important papers because we scan the girls' school stuff too. From report cards, test scores, crafts or anything else we feel needs to be saved. Some of the artwork I keep because that's one thing I have such love for, but sometimes scanning their creations is necessary. This all helps keep our home office area free and clear and prevents the stacking up of paper clutter that is so easy for us to allow to take over our home.

2 comments :

Marla said...

I like your method. Particularly the paperless part. We pay as many bills online as possible, so we have very few bills to send in the mail; but we haven't converted to totally paperless yet. I want to check out this program you use for the scanning!

maya | springtree road said...

good stuff! i definitely need to do this. before i had V, i had a couple of spresdsheets that i made myself that were really cool. but now i only keep up with one of them.