With free printable worksheet!
I am going to start this post with two facts:
- I am not a financial adviser. My education is not in the field of finances. I am not an expert nor do I give help or expert advice. I merely am sharing what I learned the hard way, through reading financial advice books and trial-and-error. If you are looking for more help or expert advice, seek an expert. I suggest you start at a bank or investment office.
- The bill-paying, money-saving method I’m about to share with you has been my own system, developed by me, and used every pay period since late 2009. This system is what works for me. Many people over the years have asked for this information because they have seen how well it works for our household. Everything you read here is very personal but very easily tweaked to fit your financial situation. If you are looking for more help or expert advice, see #1 above.
When I met the BHE in Fall 2005, both of us were financially stupid. Neither of us had been raised by mothers who knew what the eff they were doing with money. Both of us were living paycheck-to-paycheck. The BHE was smart enough to recognize he was dumb when it came to money so had not opened any credit card accounts; I was not so had opened many as well as financed a brand new car.
Therefore, I was in a yawning black hole of debt. At 22. And I didn’t even have student loans!*
We moved in together shortly after beginning to date. He had a much better paying job but I had aspirations to attend Purdue University. We looked at our money, our complete lack of savings, our living conditions, and my debt…and rented a small house and secured different jobs right before I started at Purdue.**
The new job I got was as a teller at a local bank. Boy oh boy! I tell ya, nothing makes you want to fix your money woes more than dealing with lines of people on a daily basis that have it worse than you. Or helping those customers that have it so much better than you!
This job was an amazing eye-opener for me. So I took the advantage I had and probably made a nuisance of myself, pestering the coworkers who worked in the aspects of the banking industry that would have the knowledge and advice I sought.
One day when I was tellering from the drive-thru, I pulled out a cute notebook and created the basic layout of what you’re about to see. Every 3×5 page in that book was for a different payday with the list of bills to be paid from that paycheck before the next pay day. I put the person/company to be paid, the amount owed, and the due date on each page in chronological order.
When the paycheck would post to my account, I would pay those bills, subtract their total from my pay, and learned how much I was throwing away between necessities like gas for my car and frivolous bs like eating out or engaging in retail therapy.
Holy moly, was I dumb!
I live by this spreadsheet now. This is how I know what is due when, how much debt I am in, what money I have to work with in the budget for things like groceries and entertainment, and how I keep our finances in check.
This spreadsheet goes back to 2010. I refer to it at least twice a month. It is saved on a thumb drive that is the NUMBER ONE THING on my “If The House Were To Catch Fire, What Would You Grab After Your Kids and Cats Were Safely Out?” list.***
Thanks to this spreadsheet, our debt and our credit scores are much, much different (re: better) than they were. You could say we are worse off, considering our debt is vastly deeper…but I disagree since the debt is mainly a mortgage and my graduate school student loans.**** We don’t have ridiculous debt like in-store credit cards or payday loans (which neither of us were ever stupid enough to get suckered into, thank God). You could say we need to save more…and I would agree with you.
But this little gem of an Excel sheet is why we aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck, own two vehicles and almost have the third paid off, own one house and have the other mortgaged for very little, and can comfortably feed and clothe a family of four on one income.
If you’re still with me and feeling like maybe you need some guidance, keep reading. But please keep in mind #1 and #2 at the top of this post.
What to List on Your Sheet
The top line of the spreadsheet is my column headers:
Pay Dates – the day of the month the paycheck will be deposited*****
Bill – Name of person/company owed
Amount Paid – Yes, this is different from the amount due. Debt snowball, anyone? I like to round up from what is due on all our bills but, also, am putting a lot extra towards one credit card (the amount due plus what I had been paying monthly on a credit card we just paid off).
Auto Pay – if I have an asterisk here, I don’t have to log into the account to manually enter payment information each month
Confirmation Number – if the bill isn’t set to auto pay, then I type in the confirmation so (a) I have record and (b) know that I paid it
Balance – this is for loans and credit cards as well as saving accounts
Available – this is for credit cards, not so I know how much I can use, but so I can calculate the percentage of credit being used (a factor of your credit score)
What I Do
I am presenting to you, dear reader, a couple things here.
One is a blank printable that you can use for a month or just a pay period, to get a feel for it and see how the columns work for you. Maybe you can scribble in your changes and come back to the post to comment what worked or didn’t work for you.
You also can have another handy free printable from Thoughtfully Sought that has those adorable sheaths of wheat made from little green footprints. I’m quite proud of those, thank you!
The other thing I am showing you is a sample that you can print to guide you on filling out your spreadsheet. I’ve included two months with two pay periods each.
The spreadsheets on my thumb drive are created in Excel and each year gets its own tab. I do a lot of copying and pasting. I will happily send each of you the Excel sheet so you can use it for your own finances. I’m not posting it here because, frankly, I don’t know how.******
Like I said, this spreadsheet works for our family and has done wonders for our debt over the past 7 years. Give it a go and see how it helps you.
If anything, maybe you won’t face another late fee again. I haven’t in yeeeeears.
If you need to color code, you do that.
If you want your bills listed chronologically by due date, do it.
If you are concerned about auto pay or paying bills online, I have no idea what to say to you. I mean, this is 2016. I’ve been paying bills online for almost a decade. I’ve worked in different aspects of banking at two different banks and can tell you that online bill pay is a blessing and not to be feared.
There are two different ways I pay bills online: log into each account on their secure sites or set up payment through my bank’s secured site (again, I am not a professional, just a friendly blogger giving personally-tested advice).
Come on back to this post to tell me what you liked and didn’t like, what worked great, and what you think I could make better.
If you are a financial adviser cringing at my work, bless you and thank you for making it this far.
***I keep meaning to write an inspirational blog post about this list, what is on yours, and how it all ties into Minimalism. But I digress.
****Thanks to this spreadsheet and other money savvy moves, and praise Jesus for the scholarships I got through Purdue, I only have student loan debt from my masters. I made sure what little I owed on my undergrad was paid off before I paid to take the GRE. Since I was an out-of-state grad student at Southern Connecticut State University, seeing my currently-deferred student loan debt makes my eye twitch and my asshole double pucker.
*****In our case, it is the date that the BHE will deposit the set amount he gives me each pay period to cover the bills that I’m “in charge of” plus groceries. This helps me stay within our budget because what he deposits should cover what I’ve budgeted, and we would have to discuss any other expenses since I would need to request another deposit.
******I hope to one day migrate ThoughtfullySought.com off of WordPress.com and just have it as a Word Press site on another hosted platform. That is another project for another day.