Track Your Finances with a Bill Paying Schedule
Have you ever had to pay a late fee because you forgot a due date? Or ever “lost” a bill in a pile of papers on your desk? Or ever caused an overdraft in your checkbook because you neglected to enter an automatic debit payment? Many of the most frugal moms can sadly say yes, that at one time or another we’ve cost ourselves money by not having our finances better organized. Well, there are ways to stop this aggravating problem! The simplest way is to create a monthly bill paying schedule.
This is especially easy if you have Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet program on your computer. But even if you don’t, you can create a simple form to help you track monthly bills and payments so you don’t spend money on mistakes like the ones above.
To create a bill planner in Excel:
• Open the program and create a new spreadsheet.
• Title the first seven columns: Date Due, Company/Bill, Amount Due, Amount Paid, Date Paid, Check Number and Balance.
• Date Due is the date the bill must be paid to avoid late charges. If you mail a bill rather than paying it by phone or online, you may want to allow five days for the bill to reach the office.
For instance, If you have a bill due the first of the month, enter the Date Due as the 25th of the previous month, just to be sure the bill gets to the billing office on time.
• The Company/Bill column is for the name of the company you pay the bill to.
• Amount Due is the Net amount due before any late fees are added. This is the amount you hope to pay each month.
• Amount Paid may be the full amount from the previous column, or–in the case of paying only a partial bill, or a monthly installment–that amount. This is the amount paid on your account for this payment only.
• Date Paid is the date you mailed your check, or paid the bill online or by phone.
• Check Number may be the number of an actual check, a money order number, or a confirmation number if you pay by one of those methods.
• The Balance will be $0 unless you pay a partial payment or the bill is an installment loan or credit card with a carry-over amount. The more $0 balances, the better.
Once you’ve created the necessary columns, you can design the format to suit your needs. You may prefer to leave a blank column between each of the columns above, shade the headings, add lines, etc. Do whatever works best for you and makes this a comfortable form to use.
To create a bill planner manually:
• On a blank sheet of paper, draw the seven columns as mentioned above. Create the form on lined paper to make it easier to enter data.
• Draw a line between each column to help you keep the data separate and make the completed form easier to read.
• Make several copies of the form then write “Original” on a self-adhesive note and stick to the front of the original so you don’t accidentally use that one and have to recreate the form again each month.
To use your new bill planner:
• Take each bill at the beginning of the month, or as they arrive, and fill in one line for each payment due.
• Enter bills in line order by date due when possible to make it easier to track in order by due date.
• Enter only regular monthly bills such as utilities, telephone, mortgage, credit card payments, medical bills, installment loans, etc. Don’t enter items like clothing, food, gasoline, or books. You can track them on a similar sheet, but this one is for fixed monthly expenses that you have less control over.
• Check your bill planner at the beginning of every week to see what bills are due that week and what can wait until another payday. This will help you see every bill that must be paid from that week’s paycheck in order for the payment to arrive to the company on time.
Tracking your finances with a monthly bill planner doesn’t have to be elaborate, complicated or difficult. The goal is simply to write down what you owe, when you owe it, and when and how you paid it.
A bonus to using a monthly bill planning schedule is that after a couple months, you’ll begin to get a clearer picture of your overall financial situation and begin to see where you may be able to save money by paying off certain bills or eliminating other expenses.