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Bill paying used to be easy, when I was a young woman without a steady supply of those window envelopes waiting in my mail box every day. This activity has never been at the top of my list, even when there were more than adequate funds to use. It is a feat in and of itself just to get ready to pay the bills. Find the checkbook and a pen, and then find the bills that are due. Which pile do you look through first? The household inbox was the kitchen table, the counter by the phone, and the nightstand. Bills ended up wherever I opened mail that day.

It became obvious that I needed a central place to put important papers so I found a central place and put the bills there. Unfortunately other things were put in the same pile, like the card I got from my mother for my birthday, a magazine, a catalog for my favorite clothing source, as well as the myriad of other junk mail that comes through the post. I still had not eliminated the weekly search and rescue. I needed some kind of system that I could use that would allow me to do the job in minutes instead of hours.

At the time a weekly paycheck was coming in so bills had to be paid accordingly. I decided on a five folder filing system. One folder for each week and an extra for things like the bank statements, stamps, address labels, extra envelopes, etc. Even if you do not receive weekly paychecks this system will work to keep you organized and on track. For non-regular bills like magazine subscriptions, auto insurance, property tax, put them in the necessary folder according to the date they are due.

I took the following steps in determining which bills to go in each folder:
1. Get a file box and folders. Hint: get a box big enough to hold other important papers.
2. Label folders by week and due date. Week 1 1st – 7th, Week 2 8th – 15th, Week 3 17th – 22nd, Week 4 23rd – 31st, Week 5 Extra.
3. Find all the bills.
4. Make a master list of each bill, account number, payment address, customer service number, due date, and payment amount. Place this list in the folder labeled Extra.
5. Sort the bills into the folders according to the due dates.
6. Pick a specific day of the week to pay bills, typically the day of the week you get paid.

Once bill-paying day arrives all that is necessary is to determine which folder(s) to pull out and go through. If you pay bills on a weekly basis you would normally choose the folder for the week following the day you are paying bills. If today were the 24th then you would be paying bills from the Week 1 folder. It is necessary to do this since you have to allow mailing time. Having the bills separated makes it easy to go through the next folder to determine if there are any bills due that should be sent off. There will be times when you are sitting down to pay bills on the 7th of the month and won’t get back to them for another seven days.

I quickly determined that this system worked wonders with bills I received in the mail every month. What about other regular monthly bills like rent or that loan from Grandma that didn’t have a monthly statement in the mail? Also as electronic funds transfer payments became available I needed something to alert me to write down the debit for my life insurance premium as well as many other odd bits here and there. I made an index card for the bills that I paid monthly but did not receive a statement. I listed the 12 due dates for the year and as I went through the folder to find bills due marked off the payment and entered it into the checkbook.

I chose weekly folders because even when paid on a monthly basis it is not always feasible to pay all the bills all at once. Often they are not always available on payday. Once you have cycled through a month or two you will have a good idea of how the system works. Keep in mind that occasionally the due dates change as well as pay dates and financial circumstances. This system is meant to be flexible and adjusted to the needs of the individual.