This is a tricky topic since we all have different ways that we prefer to pay our bills. I’ve been using online banking to pay my bills electronically ever since it was first available in the late 1990s. I know some folks are hesitant to go online with their banking and still pay their bills by mailing checks. Still others have automatic payments setup either through credit cards or direct withdrawals from a bank account.
I’m going to approach this discussion from a clutter perspective. I’ll leave it up to you to decided how you pay your bills. My goal is to help you reduce clutter in an area that pops up over and over again each month as the bills arrive in the mail.
Process Bills as They Arrive
I think this is the very best way to avoid the clutter that accumulates with bills. When a bill arrives in the mail, open it, pay the bill, and throw away, shred, and/or recycle the bill and the envelope.
I have about a 50% success rate on actually doing this. Sometimes I don’t feel like logging into the bill pay site to pay the bills, and other times my wife brings the mail in and I’m not home or busy doing something else.
This also only works when you have enough in your bank account to cover the bills as they arrive. If you have to wait for a paycheck before paying a bill, then this may not work for you. An alternative in this case is to either schedule the payment for a future date in your online bill pay or write the check, stick it in the envelope, and put a sticky note on it to remind you what day to mail it. In the latter case, you will still have an envelope sitting around, but at least it’s ready to go when it’s time to mail your payment.
Have a Single Area Dedicated to Incoming Mail
This is our alternative when bills can’t be processed as they arrive. We have a small spot on the kitchen counter that is our dedicated clutter spot (pictured at the top of the post.) I need a visual cue to remind me, and that small pile of clutter is my cue. It’s not the ideal situation, as I’d rather not have any clutter at all on my countertops, but as much as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to get away from it. I’ve tried putting mail in a drawer instead, but then I end up forgetting about it and bills get missed.
I’ll leave it up to you as to whether or not you keep the bills in a visible spot or hidden out of site. Whichever the case, having a single spot for these items reduces the spread of the clutter. At some point during the week, you can flip through the mail in that spot and pay the bills, toss the junk mail, and process the other items.
Going paperless gets rid of physical clutter, but often transforms that into digital clutter. Even so, it may be a better alternative than piles of bills on your countertops.
Going paperless can mean that you get the bills emailed to you. Some online bill pay systems off a paperless option where the bills shows up in the bill pay system and you can pay them with a single click. Another way to go paperless is through each individual company’s paperless option, which typically involves payment going directly to a credit card or from a bank account. (Be cautious with this last method as I’ve heard stories where companies accidentally charged twice or took too much out. If that comes directly out of your bank account it could cause some real problems until the mistake gets resolved.)
Most of these methods usually have an email or two accompanying them, either as a reminder or a confirmation. Make sure you process those emails by deleting them or moving them to a separate folder. We don’t want the digital clutter to pile up.
What Works Best for You?
I have experimented with all of these to various extents. I recently started experimenting with the paperless option through my online bill pay. The company sends the bill to my bill pay system electronically and when I login to the system I simply click the button to pay the bill. I’m planning to switch over to this for the majority of companies that offer this option.
I have to be careful about how I handle bills or I’ll miss them completely. I went paperless on our Verizon data account associated with our iPad and was late a couple of times because I skipped over the email in my inbox and it quickly scrolled down the list and new email came in. I have now realized that going paperless in the form of emailed bills instead of paper ones does not work for me. You may have similar experience as you try new methods of reducing bill clutter.
Let’s hear from our readers. How do you handle bills and do you have any tips on how to reduce the associated clutter?