Bills-In-A-Box: The Stress-Free System For Organizing Your Finances – Introduction (Step 1 of 5)

For those of us who are struggle to get (and stay) organized, managing month-to-month finances can be extremely stressful.  So, I’ve created a simple, low-cost system for organizing my bills and managing my financial obligations.  Introducing –


I’ve been using the Bills-In-A-Box system for more than two years – and it works.  It’s simple, easy-to-setup, and practical.  Over the next few days, I’ll introduce the system, detail how I use it, discuss a few advanced tips, and present a video how-to for exactly how the system works.  Consider subscribing to No Credit Needed, via RSS or daily Email, to receive each step as they’re published.

What You Will Need –

1.  You will need a “box”.  The kind of box will be up to you, but the box will need to be big enough to accommodate 13 standard-sized file folders.  Personally, I use an accordion-style file folder, but you can use anything – a plastic tote, a portable filing cabinet, or even a cardboard box – just as long as you can put 13 folders in it. Any of these will work just fine –

2. You will need a standard, letter-sized, month-by-month calendar. You can create your own calendar, print one from the web or your office software, or even use pages from a wall-calendar. The calendar needs to be letter-sized and needs to fit in a standard-sized file folder. Feel free to download the calendar that I use.  It’s blank, and you can use your computer software to add details, or print it out and fill it in by hand.

Bills-In-A-Box Free Printable Calendar

3.  You will need some paperclips – or those little binder clips – whichever you prefer. You’ll use these to attach paperwork to the front and back of your calendar.

4.  You will need a pencil or pen.  I prefer a pencil, so that I can erase my (frequent!) mistakes.

5.  You will need your budget.  The Bills-In-A-Box system is not designed to replace your budget!  On the contrary, you’ll use your budget to help design your system, and then you’ll use the system to help “work” your budget.  Personally, I use You Need A Budget Pro Version.  It’s a great budgeting tool.

6.  You will need some file folders.  Standard-size manila folders, with tabs, are perfect.  Personally, I like to reuse old folders and simply replace the labels, year after year.

How It Works –

Tomorrow, I’ll outline, in much more detail, how the system works.  But, here are the basics –

1.  You will label each folder – January through December.  The 13th folder will contain a summary of your financial accounts.  (More about that later…)

2.  Each folder will contain – a calendar, corresponding to the month listed on the outside of the folder – and any bills due during that month.

3.  When bills are due, they are attached to the front of the calendar.  Once they’ve been paid, they are attached to the back of the calendar.

4.  At the end (or beginning) of each week, you will sort through your bills, schedule payments, transfer cash to savings, and verify that bills have been paid.  (Don’t get stressed!  Once you have the system in place, you’ll be amazed by how simple it really is.)

5.  At the end of the month, you can use the system to balance your checkbook, reconcile bank statements, and plan for the next month.  (Again, there will be much more about how the system works, in upcoming posts.)

Whew!  That’s enough for one day.  So, gather your materials, grab that stack of bills, get out your checkbook, and get ready to get organized!  And, remember, if you haven’t already done so, consider subscribing to the RSS or Email updates – and be sure to check out tomorrow’s post – step 2!

Click here for Step 1 – The Introduction

Click here for Step 2 – The Setup

Click here for Step 3 – Non-Monthly Bills

7 thoughts on “Bills-In-A-Box: The Stress-Free System For Organizing Your Finances – Introduction (Step 1 of 5)

  1. In the past, I used a system similar to this except with a filing cabinet. Recently, we’ve been moving towards electronic statements and online bill pay to cut down on the clutter in the filing cabinet.

    When starting out, there’s something special about handling physical bills. It helps to visualize the money going out, especially if money was handled carelessly in the past. Now that we’ve got a system and budget that works, automating the tasks has saved us a lot of time.

  2. This will sound horrible but have you considered doing everything electronically? I do it electronically, back it up on an external hard drive and a CD in a fire safe. I use a scanner for important bills, receipts, but I use electronic bills for everything else.

    I have an excel spreadsheet for detailed due dates for all bills like utilities, credit cards, property taxes, mortgage, etc. Everything is electronically mapped out. It’s fantastic.

    I open it once a week and update it.

  3. @Livingalmostlarge… YES! I do do most stuff electronically, but the system helps me manage my paperwork… I should have published the video tutorial FIRST, so that folks could see the system in action… it’s coming out soon!

  4. I came up with a similar system in 2003, only I did not use a calendar. As soon as a bill arrived, I would write the check, put it in the envelope ready for mailing. I put the due date on the back of the envelope, and backtracked a week or more and then put that date above the due date. That mailing date would be the date I dropped the bill off at the post office. Credit card companies seem to change their grace periods according to some whimsical pattern, and this method helped avoid late charges. For fixed bills, which for me included things like cable, car insurance, rent, utilities, I would use a steno pad sized sheet of paper that I would keep in my organizer. This sheet listed each fixed expense, the amount, and due date, and I would run this out about 5 months so that at any given time I could see what upcoming expenses were and plan accordingly. I would redo the list every couple months, especially if it got too dog-earred. Now I know some would not consider cable to be a necessary expense, but at that time I lived on the ocean side of the coast ranges in northern CA where one could not get any television signal at all and it was very useful to find out what the traffic conditions on the other side of the hill were so I could plan my trip to work accordingly. For general organization, I used a box and folder system.

  5. This is a great idea. I haven’t heard of this exact method, but you’ve got a lot of information here to make it sound easy! I think I’ll try it.

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