About a month ago, I sent out a cry for help regarding my bills. I was ashamed to admit that whenever it was bill paying time, I was having to fish bills out from my car, office, counters, and various other places. Not good.
Clearly I needed something more than just a folder, so I asked you for suggestions. Many of you were kind enough to comment on that post and some of you even emailed me privately. Thank you so much to everyone who responded!
After reading through everything you sent and considering the kind of mail I receive, I recognized I was in need of two systems:
- Something for sorting mail quickly & painlessly
- Something for organizing bill paying
I decided to be honest with myself: I don’t like carrying mail/paperwork up to the office every day. I am far more likely to set the mail on the kitchen counter. Given that this is my natural inclination, I decided to put my mail sorters in the kitchen.
I checked the office section of Fred Meyer, but honestly all they had were the office-style mail organizers and I wasn’t wowed by the price. So I decided to take a spin down one of my favorite aisles at Fred Meyer. It’s the basket aisle in Housewares and they always have some sort of clearance section at the end of this aisle. Sure enough I found these cute blue-gray lined wicker baskets for 50% off clearance. They were $6 each, but after the clearance + sale, just $2.78 each!
I purchased two: one for stuff that needs to get filed (think insurance paperwork, benefits paperwork, retirement statements, etc.) and bills/action (think stuff that needs to get paid or addressed in some way). Everything else? Get recycled.
I’ve had this going for a couple weeks now, and I have to say, it seems to be working! Mail has a place to go now.
Here’s what I have going for bills:
Reader Ari had emailed me a great post on a way to organize bills via a binder system. At first I was like, really? Another binder system? But as I read through the post and stopped and considered, I realized this method makes a ton of sense for my head. (I did tweak some of how that blogger does things though.)
Once a week (or whenever I have an opportunity), I shuffle the bills from my bill bin into the binder. I have folders for various bills: utility, debts, medical, other. I also created a tab for a calendar. I made sure to get the tabs with the folders in them, so when the bills need to be paid, they go into the folder. Once they are paid, I put a check mark on them with the date, and hole punch them in. My thought is that at the end of the year, I’ll remove everything, and start afresh.
I printed out a blank calendar and jotted down my bills on the date they were due that month. This was a really helpful visual! I’m also thinking of creating a checklist that I could print out for each month to include in the binder.
Some of you suggested keeping everything handy with the bills: this was such an excellent tip, and another reason I’m glad I went with the binder system! As you can see from the picture above, I have highlighters and pens in my binder, along with a $0.19 Fred Meyer notebook just as a scratch pad.
I also fished out the stamps from a junk drawer and a small calculator. I feel I’m forever misplacing these things, too! You can’t tell from the pictures, but there’s also an expanding file folder in the binder. I’m not sure yet how I may use it – I suspect possibly for storing tax documents.
There’s even a nice pouch in the back that’s big enough to store my Roadtrip folder, too!
I did spend $15 on this binder at Fred Meyer, so it wasn’t super cheap, but I do think it was worth it. I love all the built in organizers and I really love how the whole thing zips up and has a handle. I think in the end I will save a lot of time and stress because everything I need is right at hand. Yesterday my kids had swim lessons and I was able to bring this with and note what bills we had and when they were coming due. This might sound really corny, but this was the first time in a long time it was almost fun to figure out the bills. (I know, I’m a dork!)
If you’ve been feeling really disorganized about your paperwork – whether it’s bills, taxes, business-related stuff, or mail – this would be an excellent time of year to consider updating your method because so many office supplies are at the lowest prices they’ll be all year thanks to back to school. All told, I bet I spent about $25 on the baskets, binder, new pens, notebook, highlighters, and folders.
Thanks again to everyone who took the time out to share what has worked for them! I hope I’ve encouraged a few of you to get better organized with your important papers, too!