Category Archive: Money Management

A Super Simple System To Organize Bills And Paperwork

I have been using this super simple system to organize bills and paperwork for years.  I like this system because it only takes me a few minutes to either file or find bills or paperwork.

I can file an entire month’s worth of bills and paperwork in less than five minutes.  Like I said, this system is super simple.

Some our bills arrive via email, but a number of them still arrive via regular mail.  Here’s how we manage our bills, paperwork, and receipts –

The Setup -

I use one letter tray and one expanding file box. That’s it.

I’ll create a label for each tab in the expanding file box, one tab for each month, January through December.

The System

When our mail arrives, I open each piece.  Bills to be paid are placed on the top shelf of the letter tray and paperwork to be filed is placed on the bottom shelf.

At the end of each week, I’ll pay the bills from the top shelf, using online bill pay or the occasional paper check.

I’ll then move those bills to the bottom shelf.

At the end of each month, I’ll take all of the bills and paperwork from the bottom shelf, and place them in the expanding file box, under that month’s tab.

I do not take the time to alphabetize or sort the bills.  All of the paperwork for January goes into the tab labeled January.  This takes seconds.

If I ever need to take a find a bill from January, I’ll simply open the expanding file box, find the January tab, remove the bills from January, and find what I need.  As long as I know the month associated with a particular bill, finding it takes just a few minutes.

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For tax-related receipts, I keep those paper-clipped together on the middle shelf of the letter tray.  At the end of each month, I place them in the expanding file folder, in one of the unused tabs at the back of the box.  This keeps tax-related receipts separate from day-to-day bills and paperwork.

Withe a 19-tab file box, there a extra tabs available for sorting and storing specific documents, bills, or other papers.  I usually reserve the back two tabs for paycheck stubs and information about our insurance policies.

The Storage

At the end of each year, I place the entire expanding file folder on the top shelf our our closet.  The entire system takes up less space than a large shoe box.  Each January, I purchase a new expanding file folder and start over.

This system works for me.  I should note, we have simplified our finances and automated much of our bill paying.  Rather than creating an elaborate filing system, I use this system to quickly file, find, and store our bills, receipts, and paperwork.  Extremely important documents (wills, cart titles, etc.) are kept in a fire-proof safe.

Please share your thoughts in the comments – and check out No Credit Needed via Facebook and Twitter.  Blessings.

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Getting Ready For A New Financial Year

I’ve taken the time today to do a little financial housekeeping, getting ready for a new financial year.

I reconciled the balances in our various checking and savings accounts.  All checks written have cleared and transactions have posted.  If you are a financial nerd like me, you know that’s awesome.

I then updated our inventory of financial accounts - taking the time to update account passwords and website information.  The inventory is designed for my wife, so that she would have a snapshot of our finances, should something happen to me.

After that, I took a peek at our retirement and college savings accounts.  I really need to do some more research before I touch our current investments, but I’m pretty happy with the progress we are making.

Our final mortgage payment for this year posted last week.  I made a note of just how much interest we paid last year.  We’ll receive a year-end statement in a few weeks, but I was curious.  I’ll stat working on our taxes in a few weeks and having this information on hand will be, well, handy.  I can’t wait until we have paid off our mortgage – in full!

Our insurance premiums are due twice a year.  Our next payment is due in June and I can now add that payment, divided by six, to our monthly budget.  I also did a quick review of our insurance coverage and I’m satisfied we are in good shape.

I have several apps on my phone that I use to manage our finances.  I took a few minutes and made sure that these apps were up-to-date and functioning properly.  I think I’ll write a post this week about the apps that help us save money!  Stay tuned.

new financial year image

Finally, I reviewed our credit reports – checking for any errors.

It feels good to be organized.  With these simple tasks behind me, I think I’m ready for next year.

What about you?  Are you getting ready for a new financial year?  Leave a comment below and share.  Blessings.

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Take Back Control

Happy New Year!

Here’s how I rid myself of consumer debt – and took back control of my financial future.  (No gimmicks necessary…)

First, I sat down with my wife and had an honest conversation about our finances.  We talked about where we were, where we were headed, and where we wanted to be.  This conversation – and the many similar conversations that followed it – changed our lives.  I will ever be grateful for my awesome, amazing wife.

Second, I created a plan to get out of debt.  My plan was simple, easy-to-execute, and realistic.

Third, I found freedom through structure, by using a zero-based monthly budget.  Every dollar that enters our home is designated to either spending, giving, or saving.  The smartest decision I have ever made – even smarter than the decision to get out of debt – was the decision to live on a budget.  Without a budget, money finds a way of disappearing.

Fourth, I created a system for organizing my financial documents, bills, taxes, online accounts, etc.  The shear volume of information and paperwork associated with personal finance can become overwhelming.  For me, it is imperative that I keep things neat, organized, and (my favorite organizational word) de-cluttered.  Simplicity rocks!

Fifth, I accepted accountability.  For me (and this still feels very strange to think about, even after all these years) my accountability came from this blog.  Literally, I told (and still tell) my story – to the entire world.  (Okay, I will not exaggerate.  The site has yet to reach the entire world – but I still have hope!  Help me out!  Be sure to subscribe to No Credit Needed via free daily email or rss – and don’t forget to follow me – twitter.com/NCN.  Also, use the buttons below to share this article!)  It’s good to share your story (warts and all) with someone.  Trust me, you are not the only one going through what you are going through.

Sixth, I just kept (and keep) going.  It’s one thing to have a good plan, to put it into place, to get started, and to make some progress.  It’s another thing, entirely, to keep going, to keep moving forward, and to keep making progress.  The day after I paid off that final debt, I already knew that my journey – rather than ending – had really just begun.  Surround yourself with like-minded people, positive voices, and folks who will pull for you – but you will still have to be the one to impliment the plan.

No Credit Needed is an independently-operated, single-author, personal finance blog.  Rock on.

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Structure And Freedom

Over the years I have learned the true value of creating structure and following a routine.  My wife and I use the following structured systems to control spending, plan for saving, and manage our finances.

Monthly Calendar – Each month we sit down and plan out that month’s events and scheduled activities.  We brainstorm and try to be thorough.  We list doctors visits, school functions, church events, etc.  Out goal is to know where we’ll be and when we’ll be there.  This helps us know two things, vital to all other systems – how we’ll spend our time and where we’ll spend our money.

My wife is old school – and uses a simple spiral-bound day-planner.  I prefer the calendar on my phone, which easily syncs with my computer and email.

photo by – Joe Lanman

Noted next to each event on our calendar, we approximate how much money that event might cost.  If we are taking the kids to one of their ballgames, that needs to be in our budget.  Or, if we’re taking the dog to the vet, that too needs to be in the budget.

Using a calendar to map out our month really helps us see where our money will be going.  If you struggle to create your monthly budget, try building a monthly calendar – filled with spending approximations – first.

Family Budget –  Once we have created our monthly calendar, we fine-tune our monthly budget.  Since we have been doing this for many, many years, our budget remains (relatively) unchanged, from month-to-month.  The calendar helps us make any changes that we might need to make, with increases or decreases in specific categories.

We use a simple zero-based budget for our regular monthly income.  For my business income (writing here at No Credit Needed) I use a budget based on irregular income.  We use the awesome You Need a Budget software to keep things nice and neat.

Meal Planner – This is a new one for us.  We take our monthly calendar, and based on where we’ll be and where our kids will be throughout the month, we create a meal planner for our family.  Basically, we figure out how many of us will be at home, how many of us will be elsewhere, and we plan a month’s worth of meals.  This does two things – First, it allows us to fine tune our grocery budget.  Second, it takes the pressure off of “what’s for dinner”.  We know what we’re going to eat, weeks in advance.  So far, the kids love it and we do, too.

Grocery Price Book –  As odd as it sounds, I actually enjoy shopping for groceries.  A few years ago, I created a printable grocery store price book (click to check it out and download, for free) to keep track of grocery prices at my favorite stores.  The grocery price book helps me stock up on items, when they’re on sale, and also helps when creating our meal planner.  (Do you see how all of these systems help with and connect to each other?)

Cash Management – Once we know what our month is going to look like, and once we’ve created our budget, it’s time to plan for cash spending.  We use cash for daily or weekly purchases, like gas and quick trips to the grocery store.  We use the envelope system (click to view a video that I made, explaining how the system works) to manage our cash.  The calendar helps us plan for each week’s envelopes and each week’s spending.

Bill Payment –  I have managed to schedule all but one of our monthly bills so that they arrive during the first week of each month.  On our monthly calendar, I make a notation of when the bills are expected to arrive.  Using our budget software (again, the awesome You Need a Budget, long-time site sponsor) and online bill pay, I plan for and schedule payments for each of our bills.  We do have one bill which arrives during the third week of each month and it is auto-drafted from our checking account.  In less than fifteen minutes, all of our regular, monthly bills are paid – and I can spend the rest of the month working, relaxing, finding ways to increase income, hanging out with family, but not worrying about paying bills.

Adding structure to our lives has lead to, in an odd twist, more freedom.  We do not spend our time worrying about money or fretting over our finances.  Instead, we have the systems in place, systems which work from a unified structure, to help us stay organized and prepared.

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