Saturday, September 19, 2009
“How do I keep track of bills so they get paid on time? Then how long do I keep them after they are paid?”
This is such a great question Cathy because it’s about a topic that affects everyone.
Unpaid bills need a home s so they’re easy to find when it’s time to pay them. Personally, I like to keep an action file that is organized by the category of action such as “to pay,” “to read,” and “to follow-up.” I like the action file because I like doing similar activities together. Some people like the tickler file system that is based on 43 files (1-31 for each day in the current month plus one file for each month). Bills and anything else that need to be processed on a particular date are filed under the appropriate day. Items for future months are filed under the appropriate month. Some people like how the tickler file creates a daily agenda.
Regardless of how unpaid bills are filed allow sufficient processing time. Payments need to be mailed seven to ten days prior to the due date to avoid late charges. Allow three to four days for processing when making online payments. Record the date to pay bills in your calendar, and use this date to file the bills if you are using the tickler file. I like to limit my bill paying to a couple of days during the month because the routine provides me with a certain amount of financial predictability. The dates chosen for the bill paying routine allow sufficient time for the payments to be received and processed.
Bill paying is a rather mundane task and it’s easy to put it off or forget about it. Schedule bill paying in your planner. Scheduling provides the time to get it done and a certain amount of importance.
The last step of the process is filing the paid bills. File the bills as soon as you are finished so you avoid making two tasks out of one. Using a month system to file paid bills is fast and easy. Bills paid in September are filed in September. In a year, just take out the old bills and shred them before filing the new bills. However, if your bills are tax-deductable you will need to file them with all of your tax-deductions for the year and keep them for seven years after filing taxes– or for the length of time your tax preparer recommends.
Organized bill paying involves providing a home for the paid and unpaid bills plus scheduling the bill paying. Once organized you may find you never pay a late fee again. It’s like money in the bank!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
“Can you suggest a jewelry box for me? My jewelry is not expensive but what I have means a lot to me. I mostly have earrings and necklaces.”
I too have a jewelry collection, and its value is more sentimental than monetary. As with any collection, make sure that you love each piece of it. Anything that does not make your heart sing will detract from that which you love. Bless someone else with the collection pieces that do service you.
The traditional jewelry box that sits on the dresser is inadequate for a large jewelry collection. In addition to being too small, most jewelry boxes do not keep the contents sufficiently separated to prevent knotting and general chaos.
Consider turning your jewelry collection into wall art. Put several Command hooks on a wall and hang your necklaces from them. I saw a clever wall-mounted jewelry rack on the Belle Dangles site (www.belledangles.com). Even though the Belle Dangles organizer is relatively small (it’s only 20” long), it holds a lot of jewelry. It can even hold accessories such as scarves, hair bands and purses. I love multi-purpose items!
One of my favorite multi-purpose items is the mirrored jewelry cabinet. The cabinet is a standing mirror that opens up to reveal hooks, bars and shelves for jewelry storage. Mine is pictured here. Laura Greiner designed this and other multi-compartment jewelry boxes (www.lorigreiner.com).
An inexpensive multi-compartment solution is the plastic tackle box. Most boxes are made of see-through plastic that allows you to identify the contents immediately. A collection of several boxes allows you to dedicate each box to storing a specific type of jewelry. The lid helps keeps the contents orderly and clean. But if the extra step of opening the lid discourages you from returning items back to the box, cut off the lid.
Now the question is: what to do with that jewelry box that’s been sitting on your dresser? If it’s one that you love consider giving it another purpose. I inherited a lovely jewelry box from my grandmother that I use to store the extra buttons that come with new clothes. Trim small paper cups to fit in the box to keep things organized.
Of course if you don’t like your jewelry box, bless someone else with it.
I had to take care of an emergency over the last couple of weeks so I'm posting the responses to two different questions this week. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
“Help! I’m already overwhelmed by the papers the schools send home with the kids.”
It’s amazing how much paper the average student brings to and from school. But you need only three things to defuse the overwhelm and manage the school paper flow:
1. Homes for the papers,
2. A procedure to process the paper, and
3. An “appointment time” to do the processing.
To prevent school papers from scattering all over the kitchen counter, use an inbox to house everything that you need to review. You will also need a place to store papers that you are actively working on. I like using desktop file boxes or project boxes to hold active paperwork. These boxes hold several files so paperwork is easily organized. To determine the best place for your inbox and active papers, look at where the papers naturally land – for many families this is the kitchen counter. Keep your family calendar accessible so it’s easy to schedule new events.
As you go through your inbox, consider what your next action should be for each paper. You may need to update your calendar, fill out a form, or make a phone call. Generally, take care of an item immediately if the needed action takes less than a couple of minutes. If more time is needed, enter the needed action on your calendar and put the paper in an action folder. In my experience, schools send home a lot of papers whose sole purpose is to inform. Recycle these papers as soon as you’ve finished reading them. Bookmark your school’s website so you can quickly access information without storing a lot of paper.
Of course every family needs a special place to showoff the children’s artwork and outstanding assignments. A special bulletin board or a magnetic strip will creatively showcase your child’s work with a little more fun and attention than the front of the fridge. Keep a special portfolio for each child to store the really special items at the end of the display period. Be selective. Only keep work that reflects your child’s unique character and talents.
Processing the papers in the inbox should only take a few minutes, if done daily. Considering making the paper review a part of the end-of-school day routine. The review dovetails nicely with a conversation with your child about the day’s events.
With the evening ahead of you to process the information, you will find that you are in better control of your time and actions. The feeling of overwhelm will become a distant memory.