Bill-Paying Checklist

Making sure your bills get paid on time requires a reliable system — not only for organizing your schedule and paperwork, but making sure you are focusing on your highest financial priorities first (especially when money is tight.) Here’s a plan that will help anyone regain control over their money.

Begin At The Beginning

Checkmark-Iconblock it off on your calendar — treat this with as much respect as any other appointment

Xmark-Icongather your supplies together before beginning

Checkmark-Iconor create a portable workstation using a hanging file box that you can take with you

Xmark-Iconselect a weekly, twice-monthly, or monthly date for handling bills

Checkmark-Iconset aside a quiet space where you can spread out for bill-paying

Xmark-Iconyou’ll need your checkbook, stamps, envelopes, calculator, and a pen

Creating A Financial System

Checkmark-Iconcreate one labeled folder for each pile — store these folders in a rack or box on your desk

Xmark-Iconnow you have a set place to store these items as they come in each day

Checkmark-Iconpile # 1 — banking (account statements, ATM receipts, deposit slips)

Xmark-Iconpile # 2 — bills to pay

Checkmark-Iconpile # 3 — payment booklets for fixed obligations (loans, mortgages, etc.)

Xmark-Iconpile # 4 — sales slips and cash register receipts

Checkmark-Iconpile # 5 — all other financial statements (insurance, investments, etc.)

Xmark-Iconsort your papers into the following five piles…

Checkmark-Iconthen just go through these folders on your bill-paying day

Filing It All Away

Xmark-Iconcreate a separate folder for tax documentation and receipts

Checkmark-Iconoption # 1 — create a folder for each month of the year in your permanent filing system

Xmark-Iconoption # 2 — create separate folders for each account (electric bill, visa card, mortgage, etc.)

Checkmark-Iconstore all of your bills for that month in the appropriate folder

Xmark-Iconstore proof of charitable donations, tax payments, itemized deductions, etc. until tax time

Checkmark-Iconstore receipts and invoices for that account in their specific folder, in chronological order

Getting Technological

Xmark-Iconbenefit # 1 — saves time writing and mailing checks

Checkmark-Iconbenefit # 2 — you are always guaranteed that your payment will be on time

Xmark-Iconbenefit # 3 — makes reconciling your bank account even easier

Checkmark-Iconbookkeeping software is another quick and easy way to organize your income and expenses

Xmark-Iconconsider online bill-paying services — many benefits

Checkmark-Iconinstead of receipts, you can provide your accountant with a printout or computer file at tax time

Making The Numbers Add Up

Xmark-Iconbalance your bank statements with your check registers — mark each item off as you match it up

Checkmark-Iconcontact your financial institution about any unauthorized changes or unusual transactions

Xmark-Iconcreate an “expense projection” sheet instead of a budget

Checkmark-Iconlisting all of your payments for the month gives you a clearer idea of what to expenses to expect

Xmark-Icononce a month, sit down and reconcile all of your account activity

Checkmark-Iconput reconciled statements in a file folder or binder for that account

Xmark-Iconreview your insurance and investment notices for errors

Checkmark-Iconwrite and mail the checks for your bills and update your check register

Periods Of Financial Difficulty

Xmark-Iconask for help as you work to pay your bills in full

Checkmark-Iconkeep in contact with creditors to let them know your situation

Xmark-Iconlist out all the bills that you owe — prioritize them by due date

Checkmark-Iconmake sure to pay at least a small amount on every debt

Xmark-Iconmake up a pay-first, pay-last schedule — according to the payment terms and late penalties

Checkmark-Iconprioritize them by due date

Priority #1 — Rent Or Mortgage First

Xmark-Iconforeclosure begins after the third consecutive missed month

Checkmark-Iconforeclosures are also reported to the credit bureaus — can ruin your credit rating for years

Xmark-Iconlate payments are reported to the credit bureaus and hurt your credit rating

Checkmark-Iconmany landlords and mortgage lenders tack on a high late fee if your payment is tardy

Xmark-Iconyou face eviction or foreclosure if you don’t pay your rent or mortgage

Checkmark-Iconyou lose every penny of equity that you’ve built up in your home if you are foreclosed

Priority #2 — Keeping Current On Your Utilities

Xmark-Iconif disconnected, you will also face a delay in getting your utilities back on

Checkmark-Iconis based on your last 12 months’ bills — an average dollar amount

Xmark-Iconkeeps you from getting hit with a big bill during summer (air conditioning) or winter (heating)

Checkmark-Iconmany also have “equalization” plans where you pay a set bill every month

Xmark-Iconmost utility companies will disconnect your service after 60 days of non-payment

Checkmark-Icontalk to your provider about a payment plan if you need it — they would rather get some than none

Xmark-Iconthere is almost always a steep reconnect fee — try to avoid having anything turned off

Priority #3 — Staying Up-To-Date With Your Insurance

Checkmark-Icongoing without insurance can cost more in the long run

Xmark-Iconit is illegal to drive without insurance — and you may lose your mortgage without homeowner’s

Checkmark-Iconmost policies offer a 15-30 day grace period — after that, the policy expires

Xmark-Iconstarting a new policy is always more expensive than maintaining an existing policy

Checkmark-Iconyou may not be able to get coverage elsewhere once dropped by one company

Priority #4 — Taking Care Of Auto Payments

Xmark-Iconlate payments will be reported to the credit bureaus — hurts your credit score

Checkmark-Iconrepossession also shows up on your credit report — can ruin your credit for years

Xmark-Iconyou have approximately 90 days of non-payment before your car is repossessed

Checkmark-Iconyou lose every penny you have put into your auto if it is repossessed

Priority #5 — Use The Credit Card Pyramid Plan

Xmark-Iconkeep working your way down the ladder until all your credit cards are paid off

Checkmark-Iconlist out all of the balances you owe on every credit card — including store and gas cards

Xmark-Iconmake note of the interest rate and APR charged by each card

Checkmark-Iconpay as much as you can afford to on the highest interest rate card

Xmark-Iconpay the minimum on all of your cards except the one with the highest interest rate

Checkmark-Iconwhen that card is paid off, apply the money you were paying to the next-highest rate card

Priority #6 — Wait To Pay Others Last

Xmark-Iconbills for local services are generally not reported to the credit bureaus

Checkmark-Iconcontact the medical provider to set up a payment plan — they may be willing to take partial payment

Xmark-Iconlate medical payments are rarely reported to credit bureaus

Checkmark-Iconlocal services need your business to survive and can offer payment options

Xmark-Iconmost local services do not charge late fees and are willing to be flexible

Checkmark-Iconthere are rarely any late payments attached to medical bills

Xmark-Iconyou can generally continue to receive medical service, even if you owe money to a doctor or hospital

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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