Saturday, November 12, 2011

How I keep track of my bills

About four or five years ago my husband decided to purchase a new (rather expensive) TV, so we took out store financing to pay for it. I've been in charge of the bills, so I paid it every month. We didn't pay this bill online, so we received a bill in the mail every month. Just a couple months in to it, we didn't receive our bill in the mail. Because I wasn't used to paying that bill, I didn't notice we didn't get a bill and it didn't get paid that month.  Of course when we received the next bill we had some late charges. The sad thing is we had the money in the bank to pay it off. So I paid it off in full and learned two lessons: Pay for purchases in cash and avoid financing, and also keep better track of our monthly bills. So ever since then I created a spread sheet to keep track of our monthly bills. I edited out the names of the companies, but you get the idea.

(Click on image to view larger version)

Note: the "due" date is the date I like to pay for it to make sure it has plenty of time to process.  So it might look like I'm late on some of these, but often the "due" date is around the time we receive the bill or when the billing cycle starts over.

If I pay a bill manually, I'll mark it in green and enter the date I submitted it. Once it shows up in our bank account, I'll change the date to the date it was withdrawn from our checking account and mark the cell in purple. So as you can see, once it is marked in purple the bill is paid for and I don't have to worry about it again this month.  I also make sure I have a note for the occasional bills like property tax and our license plate renewals. I have the upcoming license plate renewal months marked in pink to remind me they will be due, so not only can I make sure we have money in the budget for them, but if we never receive the bill, I can look into it before it is over due.

I do most of my bill paying online either through our bank's website or the website of the company we owe. I think the only thing that really gets sent through snail mail is an occasional medical bill that can't be paid online and our property taxes.  Paying the majority of our bills online saves a lot of stamps and trips to the mail box. I also try to have the bills automatically withdrawn whenever possible.  However, you have to double check those as well. Last month, my cable bill was not withdrawn on time.  It usually is withdrawn around the last day of the month, so after not seeing a withdrawl by October 5, I looked into it. The cable company never informed me there was a problem with the automatic withdrawal.  Turns out our credit card company issued a new card to us a few months ago, and they had a period that the old number still worked as well.  I guess that old number finally stopped working so the cable company charge did not go through. It's a good thing I noticed it didn't get withdrawn within its normal time period so I avoided any late charges.  Thankfully the bill wasn't actually due until mid-month, but since I had it set to withdraw a few weeks before the bill is due, I had plenty of time to still get it paid on time.

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