Messy money clean-up

People in financial trouble are often messy with their money. Get organized with these tips and save.



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People in financial trouble are often messy with their money. They pay bills late, don’t pay them at all, or pay the same bill twice. They transfer money back and forth between accounts, incurring overdraft fees because they miss by minutes. They take $100 out of the bank and 20 minutes later they’re back for another $20, wasting money on ATM fees.

One of the biggest hits from Til Debt Do Us Part was the office-in-a-box. I’ve done a couple of speaking events where these were offered as prizes and people cried when they won them. Really.

You probably have lots of the stuff you need to build an office-in-a-box just sitting around your house. Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • File folders
  • Hanging folders
  • Box or drawer to hang folders in
  • Pens and pencils
  • Eraser or white-out
  • Paperclips/stapler
  • Post-it notes
  • Calculator
  • Envelopes (if you’re still paying bills my mail)
  • Stamps (see above)

The key to being organized is ensuring that everything has a place. Get all your paperwork together and create a file folder for each of your bank accounts, forms of credit, home, insurance, estate and taxes. Set them up in a drawer or box.

Create a monthly bill summary. List your bills in the date order they need to be paid to prevent you from missing a bill. If you have bills that are paid automatically from your account, write an “A” beside these bills so you remember to deduct them from your spending journal at bill payment time each month. If you have bills that are paid less than monthly (insurance, property taxes) write the month in which the bill is due to be paid.

Create two “Unpaid Bills” folders labelled “1-15” and “16-31”. As soon as you get a bill, look at the due date on the bill and put it in the appropriate folder. On the 12th and 27th of each month, pay the bills that are due by the 15th and 30th. When you pay a bill, write the cheque or transaction number, amount paid, and the date you paid it on the bill. Put the paid bill in your “Bills Paid” file. Check each bill off your bills summary.  If a bill has not been paid in full (tax bills are paid over several months, for example) put it back in your Unpaid Bills folder so you don’t forget it.

At the end of each month, review your bank statements and compare it to your spending journal to make sure there were no mistakes and once a quarter, file all your paperwork to keep your system current.

Clean up annually. Go through your files at the end of each year and throw out bills and receipts no longer needed for auditing/budgeting purposes.

Staying organized isn’t tough, but does require some discipline. If you’re spending time watching TV or hiking a beer on a Saturday afternoon, you have time to get your money mess cleaned up.

6 comments on “Messy money clean-up

  1. It seems most of my utility bills are due between the 22nd and 24th and my visa is due on the 8th.
    I can't imagine this being a challenge to pay your bills on time.
    I pile them up on the dresser and know that on the 18th I have to either pay them online or at my bank's cash machine when I get my monthly 20.00 bill.
    I also have a calendar on the fridge and mark in appointments and insurance amounts that are withdrawn automatically on those dates.
    Its easy.


  2. folders? really?

    that sounds like it creates more problems than it solves… online billing, electronic schedules and record keeping would be the real solution


    • I can see this both ways.

      I prefer to run spreadsheets with my online bills and match it with a calendar on my computer. My other half needs to have things in his hands to make them real to him. So he has file folders and a calendar on his desk while I have spreadsheets on my computer and an electronic calendar. We both use mostly online payments with a few bills paid in other ways.

      It's all about having things organized in a way that's convenient and works for you.


  3. everyone has their own solution. This is just one option


  4. Each Week I Have A Bill Due. Week One is Bus Pass, Internet, & Car Insurance. Week Two is Car Registration, Visa Desj. & Cell Phone Bill, Week Three is Visa CIBC, and Week Four is Contribution to my RRSP/GIC Acccount. I get paid Bi-Weekly so when certain Bills are due I pay them off over the Phone, get a confirmation #, then write it down and when I go home later on that day, I put a Date Stamp on the Bill I paid, it's confirmation # and then I know it's paid off. I then go to my Transaction Register Book that I got from Staples and rewrite all of the information in my Book and the Confirmation # as well. I also save "Every" Receipt from the Month, use an Excel Spreadsheet and Type in The Date, The Amount, & Purpose, and at the end of the Month, if I "Spend" More than I "Make" then I'm in trouble. I also have to remember that I get charged for Bank Charge Fees and I still use a Piggy Bank For my Xmas Fund.


  5. i want to run excel spreadsheets with my on the internet expenses and coordinate it with a schedule on my pc. My other half needs to have things in his arms to make them real to him. So he has computer file files and a schedule on his table while I have excel spreadsheets on my pc and an digital schedule. We both use mostly on the internet expenses with a few expenses compensated in other ways.


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