Monday, June 11, 2012

Bills, Bills, and More Bills!

It has been absolutely ages since I last posted.  I thought for sure that I would become a posting fiend once I started staying home with my little guy.  Pfft that is certainly not the case.  This whole mom thing takes up a lot of time and energy!  Long hours, sleepless nights, well not really the whole sleepless nights thing because I have a sleeping champ who sleeps 10+ hours each night, but definitely hard work that can't be constrained to a 9-5 job :-)

Not only that but I've been taking time lately to really take a hard look at our finances and try to get our financial lives organized.  I had been hoping to do that in the 2 weeks I was supposed to have off before Liam made his debut, but God had other plans and so I've been taking time lately to do what had been delayed. 

The Bible talks at length about money, finances, debt, lending, etc and I've come to realize that as a Christian it is very important to be a good steward of what God has provided for us.  He encourages us not to worry, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all." (Matthew 6:31-32 ESV).  But that doesn't mean we need to have a hands-off attitude either, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." (Proverbs 21:5).  Verses like these encourage us to care for our finances.

When I was working I loved that I got paid on the same 2 days every month.  I knew I could count on my paycheck on the 1st and 16th of every month.  This was great because bills typically come on or around the same day each month.  Even though my paycheck went straight to the principle on our mortgage or into the savings account it was nice to have that security because the State of Michigan (Will's employer) pays ever other week.  Not the 30th and 15th, not the 1st and 16th, but every other week.  That means that sometimes he got paid 3 times a month, sometimes twice monthly, sometimes he got paid around when bills were due, sometimes he wasn't.  

I found this very frustrating because I wanted an organized schedule that didn't fluctuate. Further compounding my frustration was the fact that all of our bills were on automatic bill pay.  Don't get me wrong, I love with automatic bill pay and how easy it is, and the fact that there was no way I could forget to pay them but I didn't have any say over when bills were paid.  Plus we don't use a checkbook for pretty much anything anymore so my check register was virtually useless.

Enter a bill paying schedule :-) I've been pondering the merits of a family organization binder and things like that so I did some serious research and came across a blog about this family of 6 who lives on less than $28,000 a year (The Peaceful Mom).  I was reading her blog when I stumbled upon one particular entry in her series that resonated with me.  Each time her husband gets paid she sits down that day and decides where all of the money is going to go until he gets paid next.  She doesn't actually pay the bills right then but I thought about that idea for awhile and finally decided to implement my own version.

Organizational Nerd Alert:  You might find the following boring and tedious :-) First of all I went through the calendar and wrote down all of the dates Will would be paid for the remainder of 2012. Just seeing these dates written down helped alleviate some of my stress!  I then went through each of our monthly and quarterly bills and did some research on billing cycles and figured out when each of the bills for the rest of the year would be due.  

I grouped each monthly bill with the paycheck that preceded the due date of the bill.  For example if our internet and phone bills were due on 6/15 and 6/20 respectively and Will got paid on 6/7 and 6/21 I grouped those two bills with the 6/7 paycheck.  Now each time Will gets paid I sit down the day the money comes into our account (yay for direct deposit!) and pay all the bills that are due in that pay period.  I even have a handy spreadsheet:

Sorry this is so small....If I went to the next largest size it overtook my sidebar :-)

As you can see the left column has all Will's pay dates and then next to each date I list the bills that are due that need to come from that check.  Each pay date has 2 Sundays, hence Church(2). Please know that I don't consider our Church offering a bill :-) It's just how I can keep track of our recurring expenses.  I have also estimated the amount that our bills will cost so I know in advance about how much will come out of our account.  This works because most of our bills don't fluctuate too much.  Our electric/gas and insurance are on a budget plan and the internet and Netflix are always the same.  The only two bills that really ever fluctuate are our water/sewer/trash and our phone bill when (ahem) I text over my allotted 200 texts per month.  When I pay the bills I write in the amount paid next to each bill and then tally the total amount paid for that pay period.

Let me just tell you that this has simplified my life so very much.  Yes there is a little extra time involved in paying the bills verses automatic bill pay but there is so much less stress involved and I pay the bills on my own timetable.  They no longer own me, I own them :-)

There are a couple other things I'm hoping to implement soon with regard to our finances so maybe if you're lucky I'll blog about it!  

And as a reward for reading this far you get a picture of my seriously adorable little man :-)