14 December 2012

No More Late Bills!

Dear Lissy,

I wanted to share with you one of the tiny changes I made earlier this year that has kept our finances in tip-top shape.

As soon as a bill arrives, write the company name and amount onto your family wall calendar.

Yup, it's that simple.  Most of our bills auto-pay from our checking account, the remainder I pay online.  Just a simple, tiny penciled reminder:  "Amica - 40" reminds me that our auto insurance company will be debiting from my checking account that day.  Once I've paid the bill or the debit clears, I draw a line through the reminder.  If for some reason the bill isn't paid, I drag a highlighter across the reminder before I cross out the date.

Note:  I tried putting this in my more "private" personal calendar and even creating a family financial calendar that synced with our smartphones.  Neither was as effective as having it front and center on the fridge right alongside the dentist appointments, robot workshops, and furnace cleanings.

I wish I could take credit for this simple scheme, but your Aunt Holly is the one who used it first.  If I'd just been smart enough to work with my visual nature instead of against it 15 years ago, I'd have saved myself a lot of headaches and late fees.  Frankly, bills seemed like "family business" and I didn't want a casual visitor to be able to glance at my calendar and think, WHOA!  They're paying $40 a month for car insurance????  They must not be very smart. . . why don't they call Geico?  Problem is, for me, out of sight is out of mind.  

I cannot begin to express the peace I have regarding finances done this way rather than the more traditional Bill Paying Box.  No more procrastination, overdrafts, worry, or guilt.   I know to the dollar how much I need each week to run the household, and I can adjust groceries and incidental purchases if needed.  This little hack isn't very sophisticated, but it functions perfectly for our family.

Up too late and hoping you're snuggly tomorrow, 

P.S.  The other changes I made?  I reconcile our family checking account online daily instead of monthly (Thanks to my friend Les for teaching me that neat trick!), and I make monthly payments in advance toward semi-annual bills(water/sewer, for example).

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