Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Budget Planner

There are many things I love about my job and many things I can't stand.  Guess that's true with everyone, right?
One of my biggest dislikes is the fact that I get paid bi-weekly.  Huh?  Isn't that like the most common way to be paid?  Yes. But you see my last job paid us bi-monthly.  And I loved it.  Our salaries were divided equally over 24 weeks.  No, we didn't get the extra two paydays a year, but our paychecks were slightly larger because those "extra" pays were accounted for in the 24 paydays.  Plus, I knew that on the 16th and 31st (or last day of the month if less than 31 days) I was paid.  Same days every month- consistently.
So when I switched jobs and was paid like most everyone else I know, it was so hard for me to keep track of when to pay my bills.  Why?  I.HAVE.NO.IDEA.  But it has been driving me nuts for the past year.  Maybe if I explain my old super modern, high tech bill paying routine, it will help you understand.
This is my check book.  

This is my old bill tracking spread sheet.

I know it's difficult to follow along with this super complex system, so I will break it down.  The yellow papers are my old bosses post it notes.  I turned them sideways to fit in my checkbook so I would always have my bill payment system with me.  I would mark the month and make list my bills in two-three columns. 

The first column were the bills that were paid with my paycheck on the 16th.  The second column were bills to be paid on the 31st.  The last column were bills that came up sporadically such as car registration or maybe a credit card that I rarely use.  Those bills were paid from either paycheck depending on when they were due and which pay day had money left over to cover the bill.

Each post it note could hold 2-3 months of information on them and I would just overlap new ones every so often.  Most months I set up all bills to be paid automatically online at one time and only had to worry about those extra bills when they would come by email. 
Super easy right?  I never missed a payment and it just seemed so convenient. 
Bi-weekly pay sucks.  I can't get a grasp on it.  One month I may get a paycheck the first and third week and the next month the second and fourth.  I should be able to keep the same system as before right?  It's just that some months there are times when the due dates of a couple bills don't line up with the paycheck and I have to make sure I leave "extra" money from the previous paycheck to help cover the bill.  Make sense?  Does anyone else run into that with being paid bi-weekly or is it just me being stupid?
For the past year, I've been struggling to make sure I am getting bills paid on time and not coming up short in my checking account.  It stressed me out each month and I was having a hard time coming up with a bill paying system.  I searched all my favorite blogs to see what systems were out there, but most seemed too complicated for someone who used to organized her bills on post it notes!
What I have been doing is using this box that my sister-in-law used to wrap my daughter's Christmas present.  I really love this box.  I think she got it at Walmart.

I've been throwing all my odd bills and to do paper work in this box so that I wouldn't lose anything. Ummm, like my husband's registration sticker for the suv.  Totally couldn't find it even though I thought I had thoroughly torn apart my office and bedroom.  Of course a few days after he paid $5 at AAA to replace it, I found it under a pile of books on my nightstand.  Never thought to look there!!!

Anyway, I began using this box to hold all papers that needed action.  But this also added to my bill paying problem as I had to weed through papers to find those bills that aren't paid online.

So I figured I would try to come up with my own bill paying planner.  It needed to be super simple or else I would never commit to using it.  What I did was to deconstruct my coupon binder.  I don't use coupons much and it was just collecting a ton of dust and expired coupons anyway.  It's not the cutest binder out there, but I only used what I could find around the house.  I may do something with the cover, but only if this system works. 

The first part of my binder holds my zippered pouch.  I removed the scissors and replaced them with a calculator, some highlighters, and my favorite pens.  The pouch has two compartments and I'm thinking of keeping my checkbook in there as well.  I rarely write checks and it would keep my purse less cluttered as well.

The next item is an old folder from my daughter.  You may be able to see the faint writing on the front.  She used it for her gifted class and I can still make out her writing on the front.  Makes me smile when I see it.  :)

The left side of the folder holds all the bills that I am unable to pay online, come only once a year by mail, or are papers/rebates that need to be taken care of.  The right side of the folder hold items that have been paid or taken care of but may need to be followed up on.  I also put charitable items and magazine subscriptions on the right side as I pay those when I have extra money.


The next section is my calendars.  The first calendar is our school year calendar.  With a teacher husband, our lives revolve around the school year and I am always having to refer to this calendar.
(I accidentally deleted photo and will have to add it when I go on main computer)  :(

Behind the school calendar holds monthly calendars.  What I did was print six months of calendars.  I placed January on top and February below.  That way I can see how my pays fall in two month increments and when bills are due.  That way if a bill falls outside of a pay period and I need to keep extra money from a previous paycheck I will see it on the calendar and not get surprised. 

Behind January is March and behind February is April.  This way I can remove January this Friday and have March and February.  Even though March is above February, I can still see how the pays fall month to month.  Once February is over, out it comes and April is ready.  And this will repeat each month.

I listed all my regular bills on their due dates as well as paydays.  If an extra bill comes along, I will just add it to calendar when it comes and then put it in the folder.  Right now I have my calendars in sheet protectors, but I may change that depending on how annoying it is to take out when I have to add/change bills.

Once I list all my bills on the calendar and see which ones will be paid from each paycheck, I then make a list of bills and how much is due on a separate sheet of paper.  I add them up and subtract that from my paycheck to see what balance I am left with.  This is amount is then used for gas, budgeting extra bills, groceries,etc. 


I'm thinking I may rather find a printable calendar that has an area where I can make this list so that it's altogether.  Might make it easier for me to see what I'm doing.

You may have noticed a couple of things about my planner.  For one, it's just my bills.  Yes, I know this goes against Damn Ramsey, but after 25 years with my husband, this works for us.  We've never combined our money.  We have a joint account and my husband uses that primarily.  I have access to account with my own debit card though he doesn't have one to mine. We joke about that all the time!  My husband also keeps his balance "in his head".  He's also bounced checks.  Not often, but I just don't think we could exist peacefully if we combined our accounts and paid everything from one account. He doesn't keep receipts but checks his account online every few days to see where he's at.  It's just too nerve wracking for me as I like to keep everything in order.
Also, we split household bills.  I pay almost all the utilities and he pays mortgage, cable, and groceries.  It equals around the same amount of money for each of us so we like it. Because he does a lot of coaching and extra teaching, we use those extra checks to pay insurance, taxes and other large bills.  Somehow it works out perfect that he gets paid for those every year right before those bills are due. He also doesn't have any credit card debt, just one student loand.  Neither of us have a car payment either.
I also don't have many bills.  I have the house bills, one credit card with balance and two student loans.  I may use a credit card like Victoria Secrets or Home Goods here and there, but usually I pay with my debit card.  And other than the one credit card, I pay all others in full if I use them.
We've done this ever since we've been together and never had problem.  This wouldn't work for everyone and goes against most experts advice.  We are in process our debt snowball and have adapted our system to fit that as well.  We talk about combining our accounts, but I'm the one whose most hesitant.  Maybe after we knock out some more bills, I will be less nervous. 
There you have my bill planner.  I've only been using it since beginning of January so it may take some time to see if it helps make it easier to do my bills.  I sure miss my post it notes!

This post is linked to I Heart Organizing and Clean and Scentsible


Mark and Amy said...

that is exactly how are bill binder is set up...except for one thing. I use post it note tabs when planning bills in advance so that they are easy to rearrange as needed. After they are paid I just move them to the next month. This works great for things that are only paid every once in a while too!

Rochelle said...

Thanks for that tip! I may try that for next month.