As I’ve briefly mentioned on here before, I’ve almost entirely abandoned paper checks. I keep a checkbook around for the rare situation where one is needed, but I have written exactly seven checks in the last six months and all of those were to local businesses.
Over the last two years, as I’ve gotten more and more used to online bill pay, my bill paying cycle has become largely automated, with only the variable amount bills (mostly utilities and cell phone) actually requiring extra attention.
Once a week, though, I do go through something of a “bill paying” routine. Here’s what I do.
First, on Monday through Saturday, I collect all bills and statements on a pile on my desk. I check the mail, look at anything particularly interesting, and flip the rest onto a stack on my desk. I do the same thing with receipts from purchases that could possibly be tax-deductible. The rest of the routine takes place on Sunday afternoon and eats a half an hour or so.
I check the account balances of all of my accounts. This is just to make sure that there are no surprise charges or anything like that. I usually record the balance of all of these accounts in Excel because I keep pretty tight tabs on my net worth (yes, I update it all weekly and have an awesome little graph of the last year or so, moving steadily upwards with bumps and valleys here and there).
I sort what I have Basically, I pop open all the envelopes and put them into four piles: I need to deal with this (unpaid bills, stuff to look at more carefully, etc.), I need to file this (statements), I need to shred this (less important stuff that may have personal info, like checks from my credit card company), and the trash can (envelopes and inserts).
I deal with the “need to deal” pile Most of this is usually handled with online bill pay. Usually, an item or two requires a bit of research. As I deal with these items, I note on them in pen how I handled it and move it to the “I need to file this” pile.
I file away all printed statements and receipts that could possibly have future use Everything in the “I need to file this” pile gets filed away.
I shred All the stuff in the shredder pile gets shredded up. I actually save the shreddings for kindling for camp fires.
I do any leftover financial review I deem necessary This would include stuff like reading a mutual fund prospectus, doing some research, checking my budget if I’m worried about it at all, and so forth. I don’t like to carry around a big “I ought to do this” list for my financial stuff, so I try to take care of it at week’s end each week.
And then I’m done! It takes between a half an hour and an hour and leaves me with a strong sense of accomplishment.