Within the past few months, I've had a conversation with multiple people about budgeting. I don't think I'm an expert by any means, but we've been through a big debt payoff, a job loss, and other financial circumstances, and have managed by having a monthly budget in place.
Keep it Simple (KISS)
The advice I give to everyone starts with simplicity. Keep all your bills on a spreadsheet or in a notebook. List the name, due date and amount; you can add other information if you need it. Pay attention to the due dates so you never miss a payment and incur late fees.
I will be honest and say that I've paid more than my fair share of late fees. Not because we had insufficient funds, but because I was busy with so many other things. Consider adding items to a calendar so this doesn't happen to you.
Create a Bill Paying Process
Pay all your monthly bills that have a fixed amount like your rent or mortgage first and then go in and pay your other monthly bills. Fixed bills are usually the most expensive and are always due on the same day every month. We have the fixed bills set to auto-pay which is super convenient if your online bill pay/bank offers this.
Pay your other monthly bills by the due date and in the order of importance. For instance, pay the electric bill before paying the cable bill. If something should go wrong, you at least have heat and lights. And if you're in debt payoff mode, just cancel the cable all together. There are lots of ways you can watch TV for free.
Arrange any Overdue Payments
If for some reason you cannot pay a bill when it is due, don’t throw it aside and pretend it’s not there. Call the company and make arrangements to get it paid as soon as you can. The last thing you need is to have a bill turned over to collections, especially if you can make payment arrangements.
Create a Filing System
File your receipts as you go. Make files for all your categories like medical, donations and the like. After you pay the bill, put the receipts into the appropriate file folder. This only takes a few minutes and saves quite a bit of time come tax time.
While you are paying bills, it is a good time to sort receipts for items you may have purchased that month. File receipts alphabetically so you have instant access to them incase you need to use a warranty or return an item to the store.
Setting up your filing system and your account log whether it is on your computer or hard copy, takes time so definitely download the budgeting spreadsheet above to help in that department. Start now to get those files ready so you can make paying your next round of bills a little easier.