According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Americans spend an average of 22 hours a year paying bills. And 23% of adults say they pay bills late – because they lose them. Employing these NYC professional organizer tips can help you to organize your bill paying to keep your payments on time, and simplify the process to save you time. In honor of Pay Your Bills Week (officially the third week of February) below are some recommendations to get you started toward efficient management of your bills. If you need help establishing a system that works for your home or office, consider employing a NYC professional organizer such as The Organizing Zone for guidance.
Create a Space
Determine a space in your NYC home or office to store and organize your incoming bills before paying them. This can be an accordion file divided by date, an inbox or hanging file. Our NYC Professional Organizer emphasizes that your bills’ “landing area” should be free of other mail and documents so that bills aren’t overlooked, misfiled or accidentally tossed out – make this a spot for bills and only bills.
If you pay your bills by mail, have envelopes, stamps and return address labels nearby so that everything is one place, simplifying and organizing the bill paying process and saving time when you sit down to make payments.
Once bills are paid, file them away. How long you need to hold onto bill statements depends on the type of bill. Utility bills, for example, can usually be discarded once you have confirmation of payment (typically when the next month’s bill arrives). Bills for major purchases – jewelry, furniture, computers – should be retained for insurance purposes. If you’re financing a large item, it’s imperative that you make on-time payments and keep all bills until the item is paid off to ensure that you aren’t hit with unexpected interest and finance charges. Keep credit card receipts to match to your monthly statement, but they can typically be shredded if the two match up. However, receipts for major purchases or those that are tax-deductible should be retained for insurance or tax purposes.
If you receive your bill statements online or by email, create a storage place on your computer where you file them as soon as they come in and can retrieve them just as you would paper bills. When it’s time to sit down and make payments, you don’t want to have to search through two weeks’ worth of email messages to find your bills.
Create a Schedule
There isn’t one bill payment schedule that works for every individual. Depending on the cycle of your bills and your income, it may work for you to pay bills once a week, every other week or on specific days of the month. The key is to create a schedule that works for you and stick with it. If you’ve decided to pay bills every Wednesday, put this task on your calendar and make it a priority.
When determining your bill paying schedule, take into account time needed for payments to arrive by mail or online (even online payments can take a few days). Making sure that payments arrive on time saves both money – late fees can add up quickly! – and protects your credit rating.
If you’re someone who needs a “gentle reminder” to keep on schedule, consider a bill notification service, often available through online banking or other bill pay services. A simple and free option is WhatBills?, an online service that sends email reminders before your bills are due to keep you on schedule.
Paying bills online or through automatic payments can simplify bill paying, saving you both time and money. Paying bills by mail requires printed checks and postage – and payments can be lost in transit. There are several electronic methods for paying your bills:
Automatic draft – With this method, payments are automatically drafted from your account to cover the amount of each bill. The benefit here is that once a draft is set up, you don’t have to worry whether payments are made or received on time. However, establishing automatic draft requires that you provide your bank account information to vendors, utilities companies, etc. While most take great care to keep your information secure, the more places this information is available, the greater your risk of fraud and identity theft. It’s also vitally important that you maintain account balances to cover all bills that will be automatically drafted.
Online banking – In this case, you use your bank’s website to make payments from your account to pay bills. This service may come with a fee or at no charge, depending on your bank, the type of account you have and your account balance. The benefit is that you aren’t sharing personal account information with vendors but you do still need to take transit and transfer time into your bill paying schedule. Some online banking systems allow you to set up recurring payments, which works well for bills that are always the same amount such as rent, mortgage and car loan payments.
Third-party services – With these services, you utilize downloadable or online software to track income, receive bills, make payments and balance your bank accounts. A number of services are available and costs vary. You can review several services here.
Following these basic tips from our NYC Professional Organizer will enable you to organize your bill paying activities so that all of your bills are paid on time.