Organize your Bills in Three Easy Steps

Look, we’ve got some bills to pay.  We do. Until recently, I didn’t understand the difference between a bill and a utility.  So let’s break it down right now.  A utility is something you need for survival: as in your water; food; shelter (be that home, apartment);  transportation (car, bus pass, subway);  and clothes.

Organize your Bills in 3 Easy Steps
Organize your Bills in 3 Easy Steps
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A bill is what you owe to someone, like: student loans, medical bills, auto loan, home loan.  You can see that there is some overlap.  So let’s be completely frank here.  Sure, you need food to survive, but do you really need to eat out multiple times a week?  Yes, you need clothes.  Do you absolutely need an overpriced brand? You’ve got to get to work, but what kind of vehicle you take to get there can make a big difference on your monthly bills.  You get the idea.

Now think about it this way.  What if you never had to pay for anything but the necessities?  Water, food, clothes.  Everything else was taken care of.  Whoa.  What freedom.  What a breath of fresh air!  The first time I had even heard of a life like this in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University my mind was blown.  Seriously.  I could not take it all in.  But then it makes sense.  That’s how you build wealth.  That’s how you create your financial future.  He mentions (and I’m paraphrasing here,) “You’ve got a hole to fill.  And depending on your income is the size of your shovel.  So start digging.”  I just saw life differently.  We’ve got to get to work on that hole.  But, oh, the hole.  Or, better said, the bills.

The bills can get overwhelming.  If you don’t take time to take care of it- it will catch up to you.  Big time.  Before I was married, I was notorious in my family for not getting the mail in my apartment for a couple…weeks.   Shameful, I know.  I still can’t tell you why, except I was lazy and didn’t expect good news.  All of my payments were automatic, so the mail was just a reminder of the student loans.  Ugh.  Student loans.  I want you GONE.  If I would have done all this reading when I was younger I would have done things much, much differently.  But here we are.

Organize your bills in 3 easy steps WomanEnriched.com
Organize your bills in 3 easy steps
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The key has been get organized.  Organize your bills in a way that works for you.  Having not only a place, but a system to your bills will help you find clarity, you will be able to see the big picture, while focusing on each little payment and create your financial plan.  Now, your method will look differently than mine.  That’s a good thing.  Our minds work differently, so find what works best for you.   These  three easy steps have made all the difference for me! If you have another suggestion, please share on the comments.  I am just in the learning process here.  I want to learn from you.

1. Open every bill as soon as they come in the house. 
I’m talking every single one.  If you walk in with a bag of groceries, a purse and couple shopping bags, get that counter cleared off and everything put away, but before you leave the kitchen open those bills!  Keep a letter opener right near you.  Open them, but realize here, you’re not trying to read every word- just a quick glance, look at how much and the due date.  That’s it.  Then, and this is critical, put them in a specific location to hold the bills.  I’ve seen letter holders, file folders and a lot of other options online- but that’s not me.  I want them out of the way so the kitchen is clean.  I have a big ol’ three ring binder and I take a paper clip and put the bill and the envelope clipped together, and place them in the big pocket on the opening side of the binder.  Then I throw away the envelopes those bills came in, right then.  Whew.  In the house, in the back of your mind, and out of the way.

2. Simplify your system
What works best for you? Organized by month? By bill?  For us, we have found that when we organize them by bills it is much easier to find out our current status on each bill. This has been tremendously helpful for us.  We can see that last month we paid $38 more for electricity than this month. And we can see that in January our gas bill was much higher than July.  In the big ol’ three ringer, I have a pocket folder for each bill, with a label on the side telling us which one it is. (Side note: I didn’t go out and buy some really cool pocket folders with matching labels.  Although I wanted to.  That’s where I’m learning that all these little expenses add up.)  It is just a page protector, with a sticky note on the side to label what bill is inside.   Once the bill is paid for the month, I put the bill with the paid date in the corner.  Then, as we are paying off all the bills, and accounts are closing, we send them to the back of the book.  It is getting pretty exciting to see that the back of the book is getting fuller, too.

The key to this is to make it simple.  Make it so simple you can look at the sheet, leave it for a couple weeks and come back and know exactly where you are on your financial path.  And here’s the thing, you will leave.  You will have to focus on other things in life, like kids, a job, house cleaning, dinner, all of the details that keep us going.  So the simpler your system, the better you are setting yourself up to know exactly where you are and what step to take next.

3. Set a time to do bills.
This may be the most important step of all.  Set an appointment with yourself to pay the bills BEFORE payday.  Put this appointment in your book, your phone, your calendar, even on the fridge so that you will see it.  You have to make this a top priority.  Make sure to this step BEFORE pay day.  I have seen the past couple of times, if we don’t sit down before payday then we go out to dinner, run an errand, or spend a little because it feels good to have that account nice and full again.  Big mistake.  My husband has so lovingly reminded me that we played and we need to take that money out of the envelopes (which we will be talking about soon) and I feel it.  It’s painful.

When you set the time to go through your budget, pay those bills and get the money a specific assignment you are taking control.  All of a sudden, you are driving the bus.  The money just doesn’t come and go.  And those dollars get in line real fast for you.

As you improve the process of bill paying by: Opening each bill as it comes in the house, simplifying your system, and setting a specific time to pay bills, you are setting yourself up for success! You are saying, “I’m not going to feel like this anymore.”  You are taking control and making your financial dream a daily reality.  I am so excited for you!  I know you can do it.

Now, tell me about your bill pay system.  What works best for you?  I want to hear about it in the comments below.

We are on our way!

 

Amy

Giveaway Winner of Your Debt-Free Journey

You know what? You are amazing!  You.  Yes, you.  Don’t look over your shoulder.  I’m talking to you.  Right now.  After reading your comments, hearing your stories I just need to say, I’ve got something for ya.

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Love. That’s what I’ve got for ya.

Financial situations can be fixed.  It is just one part of your life.  It can be heavy and overwhelming, but it is just a part of your life.  It’s like getting that room cleaned up.  Whoa.  You can see the mess all at once and if you try to do that in an hour- it’s not going to happen.  However, if you work on this for a few minutes here and there all of the little steps pull together to create some big movement in your life.  Really big.  This is what we’re going to talk about. You have a financial challenge right now, but you have the solution.  Maybe you’re not seeing it yet.  Maybe you need more insight.  Maybe you had it fixed, but got back into debt.  Again.  That’s what the WomanEnriched community is about: sharing tips, insights, and cheering each other on.  I know we can do this.  I KNOW it.  In my heart I knew there were other people like me trying to get things organized, that was the spark that drove me to create this.

Think about it, once we get this in order we will have peace.  Complete freedom to do more good things.  Perhaps that means helping others out, maybe that’s starting that killer hobby you’ve been thinking about, maybe you’ll start a blog and cheer on others to find their own peace.  Whatever it is- there is something better to focus on. I’ve got to be honest, when I posted our story last time I was a little nervous about sharing it.  I was expecting to be mocked.  Oh no, señorita!  I may not have all the answers, but I’m continually researching to find out more to help me and you.  And, I’ve got some cool things coming up.  Can’t wait to share more with you!

So here’s a challenge for you.   Let’s get real about this.  This weekend, just pull out the mess. Collect the bills, find all the paperwork, get it all together and make a list.  Make a simple list of the bills, all the bills. The whole enchilada. Get a picture of what you’re dealing with.  See the mess.  Know that you are not going to fix it this weekend, but have a picture of what really is going on.  When you get it, take a picture of it  and share with us on the WomanEnriched Facebook page.   A little accountability will help us all.  I’m part of this, too. I’ll show you ours as we do our budget this afternoon.  Again, we don’t want to get all in your business, just a glimpse of the details.

And, if you didn’t win, take heart.  This is not the only time we are going to do this giveaway.  And, I’ll be walking you through some of the little things we are doing to be financially free.   My husband and I are in the process of being a host of an upcoming class- we’ve got some training and arrangements to make to get this scheduled, so we’ll be able to answer questions as we continue to study and work with others in our area.  Also, if you can’t get to a class, did you know that you can take it online?  You can order the kit and watch the DVDs at home.  If that’s a good option for you- I’d love to hear how things are going.

Now here’s the winner.

Giveaway winner
Giveaway winner from thinkenriched.com

THREE.  That would be you, Renita R.  Awesome!  I’ll be contacting you via email to make arrangements for YOUR Financial Peace class.  I’m so happy for you and your family!

Thank you for being here.  Do the challenge.  Take a pic.  Share it with us. Be a part of something powerful!  I’m excited for where we are headed.

 

Amy

A Debt-Free Journey and a Chance to Win

“WHY are you doing this?” “So, what do you blog about?”   These are just a few of the questions I seem to be answering a lot lately.  I realized that I should start from the beginning.

We were in Hawaii for five years and while there, the military gives you COLA (not like a Pepsi,) but a “Cost of Living Allowance” for living outside of the continental US.  When we moved back to the states, we thought that our finances would be in great shape because even living in Hawaii we always had cash to go out to eat, visit family when we needed to, or get the latest and greatest gadget.  But, my goodness!  When we arrived in August 2013, the transition here was so HUGE for us.  With student loans and credit cards we kept finding that we had “More month left at the end of the money.”

The holidays were beautiful, simple and we had received a bunch of the usual Christmas cards. We read the holiday letters out loud as a family and my husband mentioned that it would be really good to have “some things that we could write on a holiday letter,” next year.  And that was a starting point for us.  A goal.  Our goal was to pay off $5,000 in our credit card debt while we trudge through life with my student loans.  Because “everybody has student loans.”

In January we were really trying to figure out to have a paycheck s-  t-  r-  e-  t-  c-  h out to get the end of the month payments. While he was driving to and from work, my love was listening to Dave Ramsey in the car. As we were taking our daughter to swim lessons one night, he mentioned that they have a class that would probably be really beneficial for us, and we should check it out.  We  went into the class and while our little one was swimming, I signed us up.  I was ready.  No discussion was needed. We were going to finally get some direction. It was time to change!

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Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey

February 21st was our first class.  We had a plan, scheduled the sitter, received the materials, and were all set to go.  But our daughter was so sick with a cold.  Too sick to stay with the sitter, so we decided that I should go to the class, because my love had been listening to Dave Ramsey for several weeks now- he had an idea of what the class was all about, I needed to go and learn.  And, all of the sudden, I was smacked with FEAR.  What was I thinking?  I don’t know anything about money.  I can’t do this. Why am I doing this?  What if I didn’t get all the info- what if I put my family in financial ruin because the concepts were over my head.  I was terrified.

Now, we live WEST of Seattle, on the other side of the Puget Sound.  The church location where we signed up was in our area, but nowhere I’d been before.  It was way out in the country.  It kept getting darker, away from city lights as I drove there, and it was only making me more nervous.  And now,  I was going SOLO. The tiny little chapel had a neon cross that was the only light in the area, it reminded me of those hotels in the scary movies, out in the middle of the forest and the only lights on for MILES.  Anyway, I went to that first class, and texting my husband before it started about being a little nervous, and the prelude music could only be described as “techno Jesus.”

It wasn’t nearly as scary as I had thought.  People were really friendly and down to earth.  I took notes like a crazy girl so I wouldn’t miss anything to report to my love.   I was not just impressed, I was blown away!  It wasn’t about cash, that first class, as much as it was about, “YOU can do this.  Yes, YOU.  You have it in you. You can change your family tree.” It was like he was talking to me.  He was answering my questions.

Change my family tree? I thought about that all the way home.  Both of us grew up in families that had to work to make it through the month.  Don’t think this is complaint, it’s NOT.  We both have wonderful memories of home, and family and love, but money was always tight.  We want to take the best of what we’ve learned from our families and build on it.  Change our family tree?  Really?   The entire drive home I felt so impressed that Heavenly Father was talking right to me.  This is it, Amy.  This is EXACTLY what you are supposed to do.  This is RIGHT.

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Change your family Tree

I walked in the door at home, and told my husband, “This is it!  This is what we’re going to do!  This is just for us…” and on and on.  He looked at me and said, “Whoa!  Mama’s lit UP!”  And he was right.  The fire was lit inside me.  I learned about Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps on Friday night, we were blessed to have our tax refund in our account Saturday morning so we put our $1000 emergency fund (Baby Step 1) in a separate savings account that morning.  Whew.  Step one was done.

We’ll talk more about the actual HOW of what we’re doing, but just know that since February, we have worked to pay off more the $20,000.  $20,000?  Did she just say twenty thousand dollars?  Yup.  Sure did.  And you can do it, too. I know you can.

In fact, I believe in this so much that I am happy to give away 1 free membership class for one of YOU!  If you are married, you and your spouse will go to the class on me. If you’re single, this is just the class for you.  I want you to feel the freedom that we are just beginning to understand and appreciate.  I want you to take the reigns of your financial situation and get those dollars in control.  You work hard for them.  Keep them under YOUR control.

To enter, do the following:  1. Become a WomanEnriched subscriber by entering your email address on the right; and 2. Leave me a comment telling me you want to win and WHY.  (50 words or less.  I’m not trying to get all in your business, I just want to give this to someone who will actually GO to the class.) 3.  Report back to me when you’ve started the class with your insights.

The drawing will be held Friday, May 30, 2014 at [8:00]AM PST.  The winner will be announced on the blog and sent an email with instructions on how to enroll.

I can’t wait to hear of your story and success as we work to gain Financial Peace!

 

Hey USO, Thank you!

So May,  besides the end of the school year, the summer kick off and Memorial Day,  is Military Appreciation Month, did ya know? Me neither.  Especially this Memorial Day Weekend, I need to take a moment and say thanks to one organization that volunteers many hours to help our armed forces: the USO.

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We thank you, USO!

Oh?  You’re not sure who the USO is?  You think of concerts in the desert with the latest country music star singing their latest hits?  I totally used to think like that.  In fact, as a kid, I thought the USO kept Bob Hope in business telling jokes to soldiers around the globe. Um, not exactly.

The USO has supported the military since before World War II.  At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had several organizations ramping up to give support the troops for another war, including:  the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.  So FDR pooled them together and organized the United Service Organizations.  Their purpose was simple:  provide emotional support that the troops needed. And this launched a power project that has been in action since.  Besides sending celebrities to uplift our troops, they have given International phone cards to those deployed to talk to family members; created over a million care packages for our troops; sent mini care centers for troops to get some rest and so much more.

I had heard of the USO and had heard that they have locations in airports, but had no idea about this organization.  Until a couple of weeks ago.  Let me tell you our story.  We have been home in the Seattle area and were heading to California so our daughter could share her birthday with grandparents.  We planned to arrive at the airport at 3 for a 5pM flight. You know, the norm. But without traffic we arrived at [2:30] and as we checked in we were told that the flight needed some mechanical repairs and our 5 o’ clock flight would depart at [9:45]PM. Ugh.

Now here we are at SeaTac, with an extra 6 hours to entertain our 2-turning-3 year-old.  I suggested we go to the food court so she could watch the planes, hubby said we should go check out the USO.  Um, aren’t those just for the troops?  Are you sure?  We decided to go check out the USO and if it was awkward, we’d head back to the food court.  Whoa.  Was I wrong!  What an incredible experience we had.

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USO Puget Sound

They welcomed us in, treated us like family, had a cooler/fridge unit with sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  All free.  Oh, they gave us a couple boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and a pack of gum to take for the flight (and we’re talking Thin Mints and Samoas, baby.)  They had couches, and a room where you sit back to enjoy a movie, and even a little nursery where kids could play and families could stay together.  It was wonderful!  They have a back room with showers for those crossing the globe and it just felt cozy.  But the best part of the Puget Sound USO was the people!

It was like coming home on Christmas!  The volunteers made our little girl feel like a celebrity!  We were so well-taken care of,  (I may have even taken a nap.)  Thank you so much!  Thank you for your genuine kindness and concern for our little family.

Now we are pretty independent family.  We take care of ourselves as best we can, but when we found ourselves in a jam, the USO made our very small, insignificant, rough afternoon situation a great one.  Since then, I’ve been told of just a few things they have done to help families traveling through the airports.  I can only imagine what they do for the troops across the globe!

And I’ve been thinking about this experience for the past few weeks.  This is an organization I’d like to get involved in when I am not in the “little ones underfoot” stage of life.  But guess what?  I’m learning that when there is a real desire to do something- opportunity seems to arise.  I can help with small contributions today.  Look what they just shared with the world.

 

I definitely will be finding those mini toothpaste tubes and sending them off directly.  I have realized that sometimes I’m looking for a big way to help.  I’d love to be there welcoming in people, offering them rest and really giving of myself, but that’s not realistic for today.  However, if I can just do one small thing regularly, I can help other families, too.  Truly, USO of Puget Sound, THANK YOU!

Have you found a way to serve recently?  I’d love to hear all about it.  Tell me about in in the comments, please.