Tips for Organizing your Bills

November 11, 2010 · Filed Under Home Office Ideas, Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Tips for Organizing your Bills 

Ok, I admit it. I am not a wise spender. If my bills don’t get paid on payday, I will spend the money on something else. Money literally burns a hole in my Miche Bag!! I had to figure out a way to make sure my bills were not only paid, but paid on time. Just getting my bills in the mail was not enough.

Before I get into how to organize your bills, I have to tell you that you have to sit down every month and balance that checkbook. It does you no good to pay the bills if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the checks you write. Paying those hefty NSF charges will only cause you more stress! If you don’t know how to balance your checkbook, get with your bank right away!

Ok, that being said. How do you organize your bills? First of all, you need to find a safe place to keep the bills that you receive through the mail such as a folder or a mail holder. Don’t just throw the bills in there as soon as you get it though. Be sure to open the envelope immediately and check the due date and the minimum amount due. Not all due dates fall on the same day of the month, and if your minimum balance is higher then normal, you will need adequate time to find out why. Most people these days are going to paperless bills. Check your email or the websites often to get the due date and amount due.

The next thing that I do is to enter my bills in an Excel spreadsheet. In my house, we have three paydays. I have columns set up with the amount of our paychecks and paydays. Then I have each bill set to be paid according to their due dates. I have a formula inserted so that I do not spend more money that I have. After I pay each bill, and the check is in the mail, I mark it with a red “X”. This way, there is no question whether or not I paid it.

I had my moments where I was in a lot of financial trouble because of my spending habits. With a little planning and self control, I no longer have this problem. You can do it too!

Corrie Petersen runs a successful Virtual Assistant business. She enjoys helping her clients organize their business through outsourcing. If you’re ready to get your business organized, click here to visit her site.

Frugal Organization Tips for a Clutter-free Home

June 12, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating, Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Frugal Organization Tips for a Clutter-free Home 

One major facet to keeping our homes in order is keeping them organized. And just like cleaning, it’s a never ending job. You can spend a month of Sundays creating a place for everything and putting everything in its place, then before long, you’ll find you have more items that need to be put away, or things haven’t been put back where they belong and your house is in disorder again. It’s a rare person who can keep everything organized all the time. But we can’t give up trying!

One challenge to an organized home is the fact that we’re a consumer society. We’re always buying or acquiring more. We get what we have organized and put in place, then before you know it, we have more, so we have more organizing to do. The best way to stay on top of the job is to organize as we go, if possible. Barring that, do your best to set aside a certain amount of time every week to work on organization. Even 15 minutes a week will make a difference in keeping clutter under control.

Look around your home. Do you see items that have no home, no place where they belong? If so, create a place for them. Decide where you’ll keep them and put them there. Then, as soon as you use something, put it back where it belongs.

For example, one of my friends is a pen freak. She loves pens and is always buying new ones to add to the dozens and dozens of pens she already has. Everywhere you look, you’ll see pens laying around her home. She finally got frustrated enough to designate a cute little kangaroo planter as a pen holder. She set it on top of her microwave, and now every time she gets a new pen or finds one laying around, she puts it in the kangaroo. An added benefit is that whenever she needs a pen, she knows exactly where to look.

The reason we have clutter is that we have more stuff than we can easily find space for. So unless you can get rid of some things and quit buying more, the next best option is to create storage space. But don’t just rush out and buy store-bought storage solutions.

Cynthia Townley Ewer of suggests that frugal moms “organize first, measure next, and buy–if they buy–last.” Meaning: don’t head off to the store and buy a cart-load of neat organizing gadgets and gizmos, only to find A) they don’t work or fit your room, or B) you didn’t buy enough to complete the job.

Instead, Ewer cautions, organize and separate your items, measure the space where you plan to put them, and see if you can use what’ you have on hand for the actual organization. If not, then you can buy something for the purpose. But not before!

You can easily make your own storage solutions. Cardboard boxes work great to hold almost anything you want to store. And you can find them in every size you need. Don’t like the look? Paint them, or cover them with fabric or self-adhesive paper to make them match your decor.

Wine boxes are wonderful for holding ornaments, glassware and knickknacks in their individualized compartments. Check behind a local liquor store to see if they have any.

Shoe boxes are another great find. Fill them with a variety of household objects including craft items, jewelry, kitchen surplus, tools and more.

Baskets are in abundance at yard sales and thrift stores – often for 25¢ or less each. If you like the style and shape of a basket you find, but don’t like the color or you can’t get it clean, spray paint it. Choose a color to match your decor and create a custom look that’s just right for your home.

Also keep an eye out for used organizing tools at yard sales and thrift stores. Shoe and closet organizers, under-the-bed storage containers, plastic bins and more can be found all over. Don’t go overboard, though. You could buy so many organizers that you need to organize your organizers!

Organizing paperwork is a task in itself, but there are frugal options available. Use file folders and boxes to keep up with records you have to hold on to, magazines you want to keep, and appliance manuals. You can also keep unpaid bills and other essentials in a file folder on your desk or in a drawer.

Organize everything as you go. Keep up with names and addresses by writing them in an address book – in pencil! – as soon as you get a new one. You’ll always know where to find a number, and you won’t be wondering what happened to that little slip of paper with the plumber’s phone number on it when your kitchen sink springs a leak.

There are many ways to create an organized home. Taking the time needed to find what works for you and your family will free you from the “clutter stress” and give you more time to enjoy life.

Save yourself Time when you organize

February 21, 2009 · Filed Under Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Save yourself Time when you organize 

day-plannerOrganizing yourself can be very difficult to do if you are unsure of the process. It can also be a challenge at the beginning. When you organize your time you likely remember appointments that you have and you will be able to get more accomplished in a day.

The first thing you need to do is decide how you will organize your time. You can use an online calendar such as Yahoo or Google or you can use a book calendar such as a day planner. You will need to decide which way works best for you. If you use an online calendar you may be able to link it to your PDA or check it via your cell phone, if you have that capability.

Once you decide which method you will use, you need to start adding your appointments and commitments. The beginning stages of organize can be time consuming, but well worth it in the long run.

As time goes on and you add appointments, you will need to remember to add them to your calendar. If you use an online calendar, you will need to ask for a reminder card or you will need a notepad to write them on until you get home and you can add them.

You will need to remember to look at your calendar periodically throughout the day so you don’t miss something you have scheduled. If you use an online calendar such as Yahoo, you can include your cell phone number and set it up to send you an email and a text message at a certain time to remind you of your appointment. This is a great feature and should be used if it’s available. That way whether you are on the computer or in the car you will receive a reminder of your appointment.

Adding a to-do list to your calendar will help you keep track of what you need to do each day as well. Depending on the type of calendar you use, you might have a place for notes or you might have to include it somewhere on that day. To-do lists will help you manage your time that may not be scheduled. Laundry, articles, blog posts, and ezine creations are just a few of the tasks that you can add to your to-do list.

You need to calendar things like meetings, doctor appointments, calls that need to be made, and project deadlines. You should also calendar blog post times, article writing times, and family time. Look at everything you do in a day and calendar the things that are difficult for you to get done or ones that you put off. You should also calendar time each day to write down your to-do list and weekly to set your goals.

Organizing your time will help you get more accomplished in a day. It will also help you feel less stress because you won’t forget something you need to do. When you calendar every day you will feel organized and you will know exactly what you need to do each and every day. Organizing your time is important and a need for anyone, whether you own a business or not.

Overcoming Paper Clutter

October 30, 2008 · Filed Under Home Office Ideas · Comments Off on Overcoming Paper Clutter 

Even with all the technological advances in the world I don’t think our society will ever truly be paperless. In fact, the recent technological advances seem to have created more paper to deal with in many cases.

We have receipts, bills, insurance policies, certificates, investment statements, health records, and more. Then added to that is the daily influx of junk mail- magazines, catalogs, sweepstakes entry forms, etc.

Today we will learn how to overcome paper clutter once and for all.


Your mail needs to have a designated spot. When you pick it up from the mailbox each day, bring it into the house and put it in the same spot. This can be a basket, a designated space on the kitchen counter, or on your desk in your home office.

Your goal should be to handle mail as soon as it enters your home. But at the very least try to have a set time each day that you go through the mail and deal with it, so you don’t end up with piles of mail and magazines spread throughout the house.

  • Magazines– only keep the current month’s issue.If there are articles that you want to keep for future reference or for a recipe, etc. then invest in a 3-ring binder with plastic page protectors. Tear out the article that you like and throw away the rest of the magazine.
  • Catalogs– When a catalog arrives at your home and it is not one that your regularly order from call the 800 customer service number on the back and request to be taken off the mailing list.
  • Junk Mail– this should be immediately thrown away. If you like the coupons from the ValuPak, etc then clip the ones you like and throw the rest away. This will cut down on the amount of paper clutter laying around the house. To stop unwanted credit card offers call 1-888-567-8688 or write to Direct Mail Association Mail Preference Service at PO Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512. Include your name, complete address, zip code and a request to “activate the preference service”. This means you will only receive those catalogs, offers, etc that you personally request. The Direct Marketing Association estimates that this will stop 75% of the junk mail that comes to your home!
  • Bills– have a place for all the bills that need paid to be filed until it is time to pay them. This can be a plastic shelf divider, a basket, a file folder, an accordion file, etc. Whatever works for you is the best system to have.
  • Invitations, fliers, etc.- We all get the invitations to weddings, special events at the senior center and family goings on. Have a place that you put all these and weekly go through and sort out what has already happened and throw it away. As soon as you receive any type of invitation or reminder with a date in the mail you should check your calendar and if you plan to attend go ahead and write it on the calendar so that you don’t forget in the future.

Paper, in general:

  • Newspapers– If you use the internet all major newspapers including the local papers are available (in their entirety) on line. If you are not computer savvy or prefer to hold the newspaper than be sure to recycle or toss newspapers at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy and create a fire hazard as well!
  • Important Personal Papers– These include your will, birth certificate, social security card, passport, etc. Keeping these in a fireproof box is safest or use a safe deposit box at the bank. Other files you may have include 401k statements, bank statements, mortgage statements, stock/bond/IRA statements, warranties/instruction manuals, car information including car insurance and title. Keep your files organized and accessible according to how often you access them. If you only access certain papers once a year at tax time than file them in a banker’s box in the attic. Keep files you need on hand in the file cabinet.

How Long Should I Keep It?

We are often asked by clients how long they should keep various types of paper. These are general guidelines that we use when working with people. But remember it is always important to check with your accountant or tax advisor about your individual situation before shredding any documents.

  • Auto Records– keep these as long as you own the vehicle
  • Appointment Books– some people like to keep these as a type of journal, I keep them for a few years as back-up for mileage purposes. Keep them up to ten years for this type of reason.
  • ATM slips– Keep them six years for tax related purchases. Store them with your bank statements.
  • Credit Card statements– six years for tax related purchases (such as owning your own business) Otherwise keep until you receive the interest statement issued with by the company annually. Then you can shred them.
  • Dividend Payment Records– Until you receive your annual statement
  • Health Records– permanently
  • Home Improvements– as long as you own the home. Store these with your tax records
  • Household Inventory and Appraisal– As long as they are current. Update them annually (we will talk more about this next week when we talk about organizing for a transition)
  • Insurance Policies– (auto, homeowner’s, liability) through the statute of limitations. (disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella) keep for the life of the policy
  • Investment Purchase Records– As long as you own the investments
  • Investment Sales Records– six years for tax purposes
  • Mortgage or Loan Discharge– as long as you own the home or six years after the discharge
  • Pay Stubs– until they are verified by your W-2 statement
  • Property Bill of Purchase– as long as you own the property
  • Receipts– as long as they are current, or as determined by your accountant
  • Safe- Deposit Box Key and Inventory– as long as they are current
  • Tax Records– current year plus six years prior (can be filed away in a bankers box)
  • Utility Bills, etc.- Until they are paid (your canceled check is proof you paid and the company keeps records as well)
  • Vital Records and Documents– birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates: permanently
  • Wills, Trusts, Estate Plans– permanently

Other tips to keep in mind when dealing with paper:

Papers should be filed so that you can access or retrieve them in less than a minute.
Some people are convinced they have a good system for filing but then wonder why there are papers on the coffee table, end tables, etc. It is because you do not have an adequate filing system. An adequate filing system works!

Filing cabinets or portable file baskets/containers should be stored within reach of where you deal with paper. File cabinets in the basement are of no help to you if you can’t go down to the basement anymore.
Two important questions to ask when handling paper- What is this?, Why am I saving it?

Avoid keeping paper for sentimental reasons, keep it only for necessity. This will drastically reduce the amount of paper in your home.

Dealing with paper clutter is not only about appearances and organization. It is also about safety. The more paper you have lying around your home or apartment is the more “kindling” a fire has if one were to develop in your home. Consider that as motivation to deal with the clutter in your home.

Happy Organizing!

Organizing for the Holidays- Save time and money

October 30, 2008 · Filed Under Cheap Holiday Ideas · Comments Off on Organizing for the Holidays- Save time and money 

The holiday season can be a stressful and chaotic time for any family.  There are so many additional obligations and tasks to complete with no extra hours added to the day.

If we allow ourselves to be caught without a plan from October to January, we will face a new year deeper in debt, exhausted and wondering where the last quarter of the year went.

But, there is hope!  Creating a plan for your family to navigate the holiday season will free you to enjoy the festivities and activities available this time of the year.

Here are a few tips to decrease holiday stress while helping your family be organized and prepared.

  • Start early. This is so important! Do you ever see an item in March and think “oh, that would be a great gift for so and so”?  That is when you should buy it!  Set aside an area in your home (I use a shelf in my laundry room) to stash such gifts away until the holiday.  This saves so much time and last minute impulse buying as the holidays approach!  Also, you can take advantage of back to school and out of season sales to purchase gifts for people, thus stretching your budget further.  Carry your Christmas list with you at all times from October 1st on.  That way when you find items on sale while you are running errands, you can check your list to see if it would make a good gift for anyone left on your gift list.
  • Make Holiday To-Do lists. These lists can include gift lists, holiday card lists, a budget, etc.  Having all the information you need in one place is crucial to staying organized, especially during a hectic time.  When you do go out shopping make a list of people you are buying for, their likes/dislikes, their sizes (if applicable) and even their favorite color.  Anything that will keep you from getting stuck not having any idea what to buy for someone.  Isn’t that how we all end up with slipper socks under the tree?
  • Simplify. Wherever you can, choose the easy route!  Wrap as you buy, ship as you buy.  Shopping on the internet or via catalog can streamline the process by saving you time and energy that can be spent on other things.  Resist the temptation to throw elaborate parties.  Instead, host a cookie or ornament swap.  Ask yourself: is this going to make my life easier or add another task/item to my list?

At the holidays there are too many things that will automatically get added to your list- parties, family gatherings and other events- you don’t want to add anything extra to your stress level on purpose.

The holidays should be a time of creating memories and enjoying family traditions.  Focus on what is important- faith, family, friends and tradition by staying organized, having a plan and starting your shopping early!

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