Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of wonky systems for bill filing.
In my early-adult years I would keep every single bill and statement all nice and neat in a filing cabinet. After a couple years of that I started getting sloppy but still clung onto every single bill I had paid. (Like there’s a need to keep a copy of every cable bill you come into contact with – ha!)
Then one day I got sick of the paper clutter and burnt every single document in that filing cabinet, minus seven years’ worth of tax returns.
But now? My system is so much easier.
It’s super-functional. It’s nice and neat. It requires throwing almost all paperwork out and eliminates 99.9% of paper clutter.
My Supply List…
Before we get to the details (which are pretty short and sweet) let’s start with what I use:
- One Sturdy Basket
- 3 Folders (I use these from Amazon)
- My Checkbook
- Address Labels (I use these from VistaPrint)
- A Pen and a Calculator
Putting it Together
To be clear, let me state upfront that a smart way to eliminate all paper clutter would be to simply have every bill automatically paid and to receive an online statement. I don’t do this.
Well, to be fair, I don’t do this for every bill.
There are a few things I have automatically deducted. These are my TV bill (for the discount), my retirement savings and the girls’ college savings.
As far as the electric bill, water bill, bi-annual auto insurance and other miscellaneous bills that are highly variable, I have a paper statement mailed for those. (I don’t like the thought of having money deducted from my account unless the bill is fixed. I want to know way ahead of time how much a company will be taking out of my checking account.)
So here’s what I do:
- When mail comes in I pitch the trash and throw any bills in my bill basket. (Anything that’s not a bill or check is trash!)
- All debit card receipts are also thrown in the bill basket throughout the week.
- Once per week I grab my basket, pay all the bills, record all the debit card receipts, check my online accounts and balance my checkbook.
- All paid bills are tossed in the trash.
I also keep three folders. One is for important papers – this could be things like repair estimates I need to hang onto for the time being, etc. The second folder is for self-employment taxes and includes the information I need to file plus my quarterly payment vouchers. The third folder is to collect tax documents to file taxes at income tax time. (Since I receive my income from more than a dozen places it’s good to have a spot just for tax stuff.)
That’s really it. I opt out of physical bank statements and other like items that are easily accessible online.
The way I do things now is super simplistic but it keeps me very organized and keeps everything I need corralled into one spot.
If you want to read more about the way I organize my money you can check out this post which goes over keeping a buffer in checking, a strong emergency fund and my favorite – using different income streams for different goals. (All things I still do and that still work amazingly well for my family!)
Do you have a particular way of keeping bills organized and paper clutter to a minimum?