DEALING WITH BILLS & STATEMENTS:
1. Reduce your bills. Like all essentializing, the first step is to stop adding to the problem. If you have a bunch of bills lying around, gather them all together and sort by kind so you know what you’re dealing with. Are the bills for essentials? Are you open to cutting cable or combining your mobile account with a partner or roommate? Are you in a place that you can afford all of those $5 and $10 monthly expenses for media? Bill paying is much easier when you have fewer to deal with!
2. Go paperless. Almost every company promotes paperless statements sent via email. It’s usually as simple as logging into your account and selecting “paperless”. Email statements are easier to track, searchable, and easier to keep indefinitely.
3. Online bill pay. Set up one place to pay all of your bills online. (I do it through my bank but there are other sites that offer a similar service like Mint Bills.) I prefer manually paying them through the site instead of setting up automatic payments. I’ve found that when on a budget, I have more peace of mind being aware of the cost of each bill. It’s amazing how many times a fixed bill amount (like Comcast internet) goes up when we're not paying attention. Since I view each bill in relation to the last month's, I know very quickly when an error has been made.
4. Input statements digitally. Similar to receipts, if I receive a statement that just needs to be reconciled, I’ll enter or scan it digitally: expenses to Mint.com, medical statements to Google Docs, tax items to Evernote, dated items to Calendar, and to-do’s to Asana.
5. Paper bills to physical inbox. After the effort of making most bills and statements digital, I still receive a few bills in my mailbox. They go right to my physical inbox to be opened and dealt with only once a week!
Have any of you changed your relationship to mail? Do you now have less paper and a lighter mailbox?
+ If you’re in a place that you can’t afford to pay your bills, a more involved system might be necessary temporarily, or you can consider an overhaul of your finances and budget. My goals are simplicity and less waste but you might have different needs!
+ I don’t feel the need to keep any paper versions of statements or bills. Most of the companies and banks I deal with provide access for a few years or I can download and store them in Dropbox. This helps our home stay paperless. If you’re unsure about what to keep for business or tax purposes, please ask your accountant!