Week 5: Budget, Bills and Mail Oh My!

Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by the mail coming in and the bills piling up? Does the thought of a budget sending you running to another room?  Wait!  Before you decide to run away join us as we simplify this entire process.

 

Simplifying this process can be very easy. We are going to take this, as we said last week, one step at a time.  Starting with one thing that can really make or break our system, the mail.

 

Getting control of your mail will not only help you control your bills more easily but also the clutter of it that surrounds our houses. One thing I find most annoying in our home is when papers pile up!  They never look nice and always seem to just float around with no sense of direction.

 

Step 1: Controlling the mail

To get this mail situation under control it is actually very simple. In fact you can do this in two basic steps.

Number 1: Control the Flow: This is easy enough.  All you need to do is prepare to give up two to five minutes of your time everyday when you bring in your mail.

Take your mail to the same location every time. Immediately trash all of your junk mail, unwanted items and flyers-if you do not plan to look at them.

Next open each item that is kept. Determine if it is a bill or personal mail and sort into these two piles.  Pay bills immediately and have set aside to send the next day.  Personal mail should be answered within a week for optimum communication so note the date and respond accordingly.

Number 2: Clear the Clutter: This is a bit more challenging.  Mail clutter seems to build up very quickly.  It arrives six days a week so it makes sense how this could happen.  To clear the clutter plan to go through your pile, drawer, files, whatever it may be and sort out the trash like you did in step one.  Next, pay any bills that may have formerly been missed.  Finally, file away anything that needs to be kept.

Be sure you shred all private documents and those with account numbers.

A wise man once told me that each piece of paper that comes into the house should only be looked at once. This is a wise way to keep down that paper clutter.

 

Step 2: Paying your bills

Now that you have gotten control of the mail flow paying your bills will become a much easier job. In fact you will be moving as well oiled machine when it comes to doing this.

Bill pay can be a fantastic accessory to use if your bank has it, most do by this point. It is very simple to do.  Ask one of the tellers at the bank to show you how to do it and then take the time to program in your payments.  Each month the computer system will generate the payment and automatically send it for you or you can choose to do it yourself.

Bills that arrive monthly by mail can be challenging as well. Be sure to take the time to pay them as they are coming in.  This will reduce the time that you spend later tending to them.

After your bills are paid file away any documents you need to keep and shred those that no longer are needed. Process complete!

 

Step 3: Make a budget

For those of us that wonder often if we paid that bill or not this is a KEY item to have. My husband and I decided years ago that a budget was necessary for us; me for organization and him for watching the cash flow.

Plan your budget BEFORE the month starts. If you try to start in the middle you are already falling behind in the process.  So, right now sit down and write or type out all of the bills you have every month.  Be sure to include in there accounts that you pay towards like saving for car expenses, your HSA and new clothes.

 

Once you have the completed list write down the money that goes to them each month. For example each month in our home we put aside twenty dollars to our clothing fund, twenty dollars for our household fund, and two hundred dollars for food costs.  Talk with one another to determine these amounts if you do not already have set amounts determined.

 

Be sure that your amounts you have agreed to pay do NOT exceed the amount of money you make in a month. Any “extra money” left over after balancing to the bills should still be planned to spend or save somewhere.  When you are finished, your income minus all of your bills should equal out to zero.  That way you know everything will be paid and you are not going over your budget.

Know that part of the process of creating a budget is that it needs to be altered regularly. Give yourself a break when it does not work out perfectly but make a note so that the same problem does not occur again.

So you have controlled your budget, bills and mail. Oh my!!! So much to be proud of today!  Be sure to join me next week as we tackle week six of our challenge.

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