Save Time Paying Bills

When paying your bills takes up a sizable amount of your time, you may be ready to explore alternative methods of looking after your accounts.

Not only are bills themselves demanding, but finding time to assess the damages, write out a check, and mail the statement takes a bite out of hectic schedules to further complicate our lives. Paying bills to maintain a middle-class family of four may take as long as six to ten hours each month, a full day's work for most people.

If you are looking for ways to scale back the amount of time you spend working on monthly expenses, here are a few suggestions that may help.

1. Place all incoming bills in a central location until you are ready to pay them. This may be a folder that sits on your desk or a basket on the kitchen counter or dining room table. You may want to set up an accordion file with alphabetical headings for creditors' names, like Ace Furnace Repair, Barton Propane, etc. This will save time when you are finally ready to sit down and work on them so that you won't have to go in search of scattered mail and accounts.

2. Keep postage supplies handy. Organize a box of stamps, envelopes, personalized self-stick return address labels, pens, and other writing materials for ready access. Add a check-ordering reminder slip with the estimated date for re-ordering so you won't have to wait to write checks when needed. A shoebox makes a handy storage container that can be stashed in a desk drawer or under the steps, for that matter. Remember to replenish your supplies as they dwindle to keep from running out.

3. Pay your bills once a month. Most accounts come due on a monthly basis. Examine your due-dates to find a common window of a few days in which you can pay them all at one sitting. This might come at the end of the month, for example, so you have an idea of how to plan your schedule in order to get payments mailed on time and avoid incurring penalties. Some people plan a certain time of day, like first thing in the morning or after the kids go to bed, to avoid interruptions or distractions.

4. Maintain accurate records for quick reference. That way, if a bill comes it that does not reflect the last payment, you can immediately access the previous month's bills to see if and when it was paid. In addition to keeping your check register on hand, you may wish to start an accounts ledger with lists of monthly payments and dates. For credit card accounts you can include the current interest rate, since some are variable or switch after an introductory period, along with the remaining balance.

5. File statement stubs or bill notations in an orderly fashion and a safe location. You may want to keep a file for each account, for example, in addition to your check register and accounts ledger. All of these provide a double-checking mechanism to help you prevent errors and to identify problems promptly.

When you cut the amount of time spent paying bills each month, you will have several more hours to do fun things instead. So play a game with your kids, take a walk and enjoy the neighborhood, or curl up with a good book. You've earned it!

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