Friday, January 9, 2009

Simple Solutions

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. One issue I have had this past year has been making sure the bills got paid. I am the one responsible in our house for financial data - I enter everything into Quick*n and I write the checks to pay the bills. This is not because I am particularly skilled at it (because believe me, I am not) it is just the way responsibilities were divided up in our household when we got married. I try to be very careful, and I typically pay a bill the day it arrives, so I don't forget. Occasionally, I set one aside to deal with another day. This past year, during crazy weeks I just stacked them up and paid them weekly, after things settled down. The result was, I lost a phone bill in a stack of papers and was charged a late fee, I did not notice one month that we never received a bill for the credit card I use for online purchases (turns out, a bill is just a "courtesy" and they don't really care if it shows up in your mailbox 2 months after the due date - which is what actually happened!). So, a simple solution (so simple I am sure others have done this already, but it only just occurred to me)- I created a master calendar page with each bill listed on it's due date. I am putting it into a plastic sleeve, and it will be in my binder, with a copy posted next to my calendar. Now, when I check my calendar, I will be reminded that a bill is coming due, and I can be sure that it arrives, and that I don't forget to pay it. I think I will use a highlighter each month, and just highlight each payment when I make it, then I can look back and know nothing has been missed. Nothing annoys me more than paying an extra $5-10 to the electric company because I did not send the payment in immediately! This would also be a great way to help budget - you could fill in the average amount for each of the utilities, house payment etc - and that would give a big picture of fixed expenses each month. And yes, I know, I could have much of this electronically drafted and then I would not have that problem, but I am not a big fan of electronic drafts, and I am still fighting the pressure to "bank online". So, I am going to continue the archaic methods of actually physically writing my own checks, and yes, licking my own envelopes (well, I will say I do prefer the self-adhesive envelopes), and yes even using stamps (which I wish were NOT just glorified and very expensive stickers)!

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