Time Tips?

Sep. 1st, 2012 08:23 am
red_trillium: my inspiration or creative icon, a purple moon rise and Joshua tree (Night Sky and Joshua Tree)
[personal profile] red_trillium posting in [community profile] actyourwage
Does anyone have any tips on how to regularly manage your bills/account but that doesn't take a ton of time?

Our situation: I work full time. I leave the house at 6am, get back at 6pm. I do over half to 3/4 the house work & about 1/3 to 1/2 the cooking usually. My wife has had an increase in her chronic pain levels which means I'm now doing at least 3/4 to all the house work, all the cooking and my usual work schedule & trying to help her with daily things she's having problems with. We're busy at work and going through some Big Changes so I'm also running on low energy so not a lot available. Fortunately we're only just heading into spring but that does mean the gardening is going to start back up, at the very least for our food plants and regular watering.

I've always had a bad bill habit--leaving things until we get paid each fortnight. I've been trying to get better but at this point can't do it as regularly as I'd like due to time and energy being low. As you can imagine this starts a viscous cycle of over spending, dipping into the (diminishing) savings and making me reluctant to face the bills.

How do you stay on top of your bills and balancing your account regularly? Do you do it once or twice or more a week? Do you do certain parts at different times? I've tried to "reward" myself for doing it, I just feel guilty and go without doing/getting something then.

We're hoping that her pain levels reduce back below the spike she had a couple weeks ago, but as she's lived with chronic pain for over 30 years we know they won't go away. I need to get some good habits in place before things do get much worse.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-31 10:07 pm (UTC)
drunkoffthestars: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drunkoffthestars
I keep track of everything via Mint. I also make 99% of my purchases via credit card, so it's pretty set it and forget it, I don't have to worry about tracking cash at all, so this is a major YMMV. Mint also has a relatively new 'bill' calendar thing where it has a little calendar of when all your bills are due and about how much they are. It can also send you email reminders. I believe it will do this with just having a mint account even if you don't give it any of your financial information.

I'm a medium fan of automatic billing. I have things I 'trust' and can pay via credit card without penalty (Netlix, cell phone) on automatic billing, and I set up online payments for things I don't 'trust'/can't pay with a credit card (electricity, credit cards) once a month, usually around the first of the month. The only thing I pay via paper is the gas bill because they want automatic debits directly from my checking account (HELL NO) or charge a hefty fee to use a credit/debit card, but that shows up around the same time as everything else and is generally quite low so I pay it as soon as I get it and put the check in the mailbox that night.

If it doesn't imperil your finances to have everything due at once, you could probably call up the companies you do business with and ask for your billing dates to be shifted so that they all occur around the same time so you only have to sit down and take care of them once a month, which cuts down on the amount of time you have to be thinking about it. For instance, both of my credit cards are due around the 10th, so I only have to sit down once a month and set up the payments. This works out really well for me, but I'm also paid on a monthly basis and usually thinking about money things around then and paying rent, etc.

Also, I like having a medium-size buffer in my checking account so that when I go to pay a bill, I just pay it and don't have to worry about when the next paycheck comes in to afford it. But I know YMMV wildly on that one. Some people can mentally mark that money of as reserved and some can't.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-31 10:13 pm (UTC)
shadowandflame: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowandflame
Oh, I heart Mint too. I hardly ever pay cash for stuff anymore, because it's so much easier to pay with plastic and let Mint track everything for budgetary purposes. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-01 10:10 pm (UTC)
drunkoffthestars: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drunkoffthestars
yeah, I know credit cards are a pretty fraught topic when it comes to personal finance. :)

I think it you take care of stuff twice a month/every time you get paid, that should be often enough to keep you up to date on paying things.

If tracking your spending is where you see things taking up more time than you have, maybe someone else will have better suggestions, but I've heard good things about the envelope budget method, if you don't mind working all in cash. That way, you wouldn't have to fuss with saving your receipts and whatnot.

I could also see it helping if you had an envelope for each budget category and put your receipts in that envelope at the time of purchase, so when you go to total everything up, it's already sorted and you just have to sit down for a few minutes with a calculator.

Downside: both of these methods do mean wandering around with a bunch of envelopes or one of those expanding file thingies that people use for coupons or something.

Good luck! Let us know if you come up with a method that works for you!
Edited Date: 2012-09-01 10:11 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-31 10:10 pm (UTC)
shadowandflame: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowandflame
I don't know if this would work for you, but my bills are either automatically charged to my credit card or (in the case of rent) automatically debited from my bank account. So I only have to remember to pay the credit card bills every month. I find it much simpler this way; I used to occasionally forget to pay something, and that never happens anymore. Plus I get extra points on my credit card, which is a nice little bonus.

Another possibility is to set up pre-authorized payments for your bills so they will automatically come out of your bank account (instead of going onto a credit card).

Sympathies on the chronic pain situation; that must be hard. :( I hope her pain levels do go back down to what they were previously.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-01 10:31 pm (UTC)
shadowandflame: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowandflame
Ah, it probably works better for me as I'm paid monthly.

I have a little experience with what ongoing pain is like; you do what you can. Your wife is lucky to have your support, and I think it's entirely understandable that keeping up with bills is something you don't always have time or energy for.

I see you mentioned entering receipts in another comment - if you're using debit to pay for a lot of stuff, that *is* a chore Mint is very helpful with (if you're comfortable giving it your online banking login info, anyway). It automatically categorizes most of your purchases according to the budget area it thinks they belong in, and it's usually right; I do still have to tell it where a few purchases belong, but it's definitely much less work than manually entering receipt amounts into a budget spreadsheet, like I used to do.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-31 10:51 pm (UTC)
carolyn_claire: (Pretty leaf)
From: [personal profile] carolyn_claire
I pay bills twice a month, on the 1st and the 15th. I keep a buffer amount in checking so that I know that everything can be paid, and I created my own simple cash flow/budget balance sheet to make sure that unexpected expenses don't cut too deeply into that buffer. I can project the entire financial year with it and then plug in actual expenses as they happen to see how they'll affect cash flow going forward. Pretty much all of our bills are payable online, and I have everything I pay bookmarked in the order I pay them each month. (For those few things that aren't payable online, I use my bank's bill pay option, which I can do through online banking, so no paper or stamps required.) I pay out the first half of the month's bills on the 1st and the second half's on the 15th, and I'm done--takes less than half an hour each time.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-02 02:54 am (UTC)
carolyn_claire: (Default)
From: [personal profile] carolyn_claire
I used to keep a "disappeared" $100.00 in my account, too, just in case I made a mistake, but since I started using my budgeter I don't need to. I do keep track of my ATM/debit card spending, but not right as I spend it, usually; I balance my budget sheet against my online banking info anywhere from weekly to a couple of times a month, just plugging the bank's info into my spreadsheet. I generally know how much we have and how much I can afford to spend for the entire month, and I keep enough in the account that I don't get too close to zero, usually. The more I spend, the more often I update the budget with my expenditures so I don't lose track of what's in there.

I found that it's easier for me to make payments twice a month on a regular schedule than it was to try to rotate payments every two weeks. That third payment per month that happens twice a year I would put in savings, or leave in checking to pad the balance if I'd had some extra expenditures that brought the balance too far down. It should work fine for you to make your payments on payday, though, or the day after--as long as you have everything budgeted out and organized it's still easy to do.

If you're interested, I could send you a copy of my simple spreadsheet for budgeting; I use OpenOffice, which is compatible with Excel, if you have that. You can email me at cc1 at tds dot net if you'd like.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-02 04:50 pm (UTC)
lassarina: I'm not coming out until the stupid people have gone away.  ....I can wait all day. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lassarina
I'm an enormous fan of Mint. Most of my bills come due within the first week of the month (minus the electric, which is bi-weekly); anything that wouldn't fit that schedule is actually taken care of by my housemate and then we settle up later. Mint reminds me 7 days before my bill is due, and so on the 1st of the month I sit down and pay everything right there. (Then my account balance cries for a while.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-04 01:07 pm (UTC)
kyrielle: A photo of kyrielle, in profile, turned slightly toward the viewer (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyrielle
My husband handles a bunch of our bills online, but the ones that don't do that (because they can't, because they charge too much, because they're not predictable), I open the mail every 2-3 days and WRITE THE DUE DATE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ENVELOPE and stuff it in a little spot where only "bills not yet paid" go. Closest due date on top, everything else underneath in any order.

We run the bills every 2 weeks UNLESS we get an early due date, then we make time and plow through any due before the 2-week mark before that one is due.

Having the date on the outside helps keep me on track really well, though. I know when I have to worry and when "dammit, I'm flat exhausted" is a fine thing to say, because really it CAN wait.

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