In addition to lists, I like financial software. I started using Quicken back in 1997 and have used it ever since. When I was in charge of paying the bills, I also had a system to remind me to pay the bills so I never missed a payment and always had the money ready to pay it. Here are the integral parts of my good financial system. If you want to set up good financial systems, you should adopt some or all of these practices yourself.
For me, financial software is the key to managing my money. I still use Quicken 2005, but they release an upgrade every year. I don’t use the tax planning portion of the program, so an outdated edition works well for me. I fear we may have to upgrade this year, though, because my husband has been having trouble downloading the statements. We might also consider switching to Mint or one of the new online programs, but so far the old Quicken works most of the time and we can deal with its quirks.
If you have recurring bills and a credit card with no debt on it, charge as many recurring bills as possible to that card. We put our cell phone, cable bill, utility bills, and memberships on one card. That way we never forget to pay those little bills and pay them all with one payment. This is also a great money saver if your bank charges a fee per check or have a monthly check-writing limit on your account.
Online Bill Pay
My bank permits free online bill pay. I probably wouldn’t use a bank that charged me to make its processes easier, but some banks do still charge for the service. If you get bill pay free, then use it. It takes five minutes to log in, enter all the bills you want to pay, set up the payment dates, and then let your bills pay themselves. If your bank doesn’t offer free bill pay, compare the cost of their bill pay with other online bill pay services and sign up for the one with the features you need at the best price. Many credit card and utility companies let you pay for free through their websites, but it does require extra steps to go to those individual websites.
If you have bills you need to mail, mark their due dates on a calendar every month. I used to mark the payment date (seven days before the due date) on the stamp spot on the envelopes and file them by payment date. Then once a week I went through my bills and wrote the checks for the bills that were due to be paid that week. If I was going on vacation, I paid the next week’s bills, too. That ensured that I always paid my bills on time.
We receive most of our bills online and download them into Quicken, but we maintain a filing system for the bills we do receive. We keep them in the files for a year, and then transfer any we need to keep to our tax folders at the end of the year. We also keep our receipts in folders for sorting at year end.
Your system can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but I found that my really complicated system was overwhelming and this more streamlined method works well for us now.