If you're anything like me, the stack of bills can get quite high. And keeping track of all those bills can be a challenge. You want to make sure you pay them all, and on time. How do you make sure you don't forget something? You create a bill-paying schedule.
1) Make a List
To start, write down all of your bills. Make sure you write down the irregular ones, as well, such as the ones that only get paid every three months, every six months, or every year. Don't forget any bills that are automatically debited from your bank account.
2) Review the Past
Pull out your bills from the past year or so. Write down when each bill was due and how much it was for. Review the list to make sure you didn't forget anything in step 1. Now analyze what you wrote down. Are some bills due on the same day every month? Around the same day? Are they the same amount? Do they vary, or are they somewhat predictable? Make a note of approximate due dates and amounts. If some bills vary, such as heating expenses, make a note of when they're most expensive, and how much they cost then, as well as when they're least expensive and how much they cost at that time.
3) Create a Master Spreadsheet
On a piece of paper (or on the computer, if you prefer), create a master list for each month. Create columns for the due date, the bill that's due, the amount due, the amount you paid, and when you paid. I like to put them in order of due date so I can see at a glance which bills are due next. Fill in what you can. If you have set due dates or amounts, such as for a mortgage or rent, feel free to fill in those dates and amounts now. If you don't know exactly when a bill will be due, pencil in an approximate date. Use the earliest date that that bill has been due in the past. (For example, if your phone bill has been due on the 15th, 18th, 14th, 13th, and 16th, use the 13th as a penciled-in due date.) Likewise for amounts due, except use the highest amount.
Account for bills that only get paid every three months, six months, or year, on the master list for the month(s) they're usually due.
4) Look at Your Income
How much do you bring in? How often does it come in? Are you paid the same amount every week? Do you get paid on commission? If your income varies, try doing the same thing with your income as you did with your bills in step 2. Are there different times of year that you tend to get paid more or less? Make a note of the lowest you would normally get. You'll use that as your base.
5) Set a Schedule
Write down when you'll get each of your paychecks. Leave some space between the dates.
6) Fill in the Bills
Evaluate the bills you need to pay each month and determine when you'll pay them, based on their due dates. When you get paid, which bills will get paid? Add up the bills you have scheduled to pay each pay period and make sure they don't exceed the income you expect to receive. You may need to finagle when you pay each bill so you don't exceed your income. Keep in mind that bills don't need to be paid on the due date or right before. You can pay them a week, two weeks, or more, ahead of time as long as you pay between the billing cycles (i.e. after the previous bill was due, but before the current one is).
This step will take some time, especially the first time you attempt to do it. To keep track of what you've accounted for, check off each bill on your master list as you schedule it. That way you don't forget anything, especially when it comes to the irregular bills.
If your income varies, this step may be a bit tricky. Use the lowest amount you would normally get as a basis so you don't find yourself in a bind come payday if you have a low pay period. If you know you'll get a higher amount at certain times, however, feel free to account for that in your schedule.
7) Update the Master Lists
As bills actually come in, fill in the due dates and amounts due, if you didn't have them already on your list. Tweak your bill-paying schedule if needed.
Once you get the hang of the system, you'll find it simple to turn to your schedule on pay day and know exactly which bills need to get paid. You'll know you have enough to cover the bills on the schedule. Each bill will be paid, and it'll be on time. And that will leave you with more time and less stress -- so you can worry about more important things.