It’s almost payday again and that means “Bill Pay Day” as Mr. TTF likes to say and he is all too right. Sometimes it can feel as though the bills never stop coming. We want to help you learn how to track your monthly bills so there are no more surprises when it comes time to pay your bills. Pay day should not be a stressful day!
I was on the same pay cycle as Mr. TTF when I was working. He currently is getting paid bi-weekly. That means, every other weekend, we sit down to ensure all our money is going to the right places and that we have enough to pay everything. Since we make such a big priority of saving (as you should, too) we do run into that issue every now and again.
Start with Saving
We will constantly stress this point but we always pay ourselves first. We have both been at a savings rate of about 50% of our take-home income. Mr. TTF has a direct deposit set up to automatically separate his check 50/50. This is an easy method for him as he is salary and the split will always be the same amount each week. For me, I was getting paid hourly so my paycheck was different every week. I would average $1,050 per paycheck. Every pay day I would deposit $500 first thing to my savings account. I worked off a set amount regardless if my paycheck was more or less. Mr. TTF worked off a percentage which, technically, could be considered a set amount as well due the consistency of his paychecks.
Tracking your Monthly Bills
Once we are able to pay ourselves, we work to ensure we have all the bills covered: rent, utilities, insurance, phones, all the credit cards, etc. There’s a lot to keep up with in life and bill due dates should not be something you need to memorize and rattle off top-of-mind. Forgetting to pay a bill, even just once, can be a huge hit to your credit score, not to mention additional costs with late fees and interest rates. We have a few easy tips for you that will make it easy to track your monthly bills and get those dates from floating around in your head into a system that you will be able to repeat time after time.
#1 Have a Color Coded Calendar
Having a color coded calendar is the first method we cover to teach you how to track your monthly bills. This method has been all over social media (in the finance community) recently because it such an efficient and sustainable method. Having a color coded calendar is a visual and in-your-face way to ensure you never forget a bill again.
What is it?
This is a simple method in which you will use one color per pay period to group all your bills associated with the pay period the money will be coming from. You will highlight the pay day and each bill due until the next pay day the same color.
For example, for this week’s payday you use blue. You can highlight that payday blue on the calendar. Then highlight in the same blue every bill you need to pay until the next pay period. You can now easily see on the basis of color that rent, car insurance, and utilities are due before you get another paycheck. That means that this paycheck needs to cover all those expenses first and foremost.
This allows you to plan ahead to see how much money you will have left over for more flexible spending, like groceries and Happy Hours. And you won’t have any excuses to miss any of your bills!
How do I use it?
To use this method successfully, you will need to be consistent, as with any method of financial tracking. Don’t start a whole new process just to accommodate this new method of bill tracking. Chances are you already have some sort of calendar method that you use to keep track of doctor’s appointments, practices, work schedules, etc. Whether you use a wall calendar or an app, I would use something of the same method. You don’t need to use the same calendar, just a similar method.
I know my mom has these two large whiteboard calendars right by one of the entrances to her home. People could easily see it if they visited, so she doesn’t want to add all the bills to be paid to that calendar. But she could add a smaller whiteboard calendar to the wall near her desk in the office. Much more out of sight but the using the same method she is already used to using. This helps to ensure she actually updates her calendar.
Since she already using a whiteboard calendar to track social events, she already knows she will have to take the time to erase and update every month.
Different Types of Calendars
- Wall calendar
- Tip: Fill out the entire year at one time since your pay dates don’t change unless you ask for them to be
- Whiteboard calendar
- Online calendar (ex: Google Calendar or your Apple Calendar)
- Tip: Have a separate calendar for your bills so you can show or hide it
- Tip: Set all bills as reoccurring payments, whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly
- Pocket calendar or planner
- Tip: Keep it in your purse or desk for easy access on payday
Another good tip is to write the amount due next to the due date as you receive the bills. Some bills are the same amount each month so you can write those ahead of time easily. This will help your calculate how much is dues each pay period. And you can CROSS IT OFF when it’s paid. It’s the worst overpaying or paying twice and oh so satisfying to cross that puppy off.
Benefits of the Calendar Method
- Visually appealling
- Flexible to fit your lifestyle and method of organization
- Can fill out a lot ahead of time
- Easy to add annual expenses to
- Can easily see the next cycle / month
- Easy to cross off once paid
Disadvantages of the Calendar Method
- Can get mixed in with other calendar events if using only one calendar/planner
- Can disappear in the whirlwind if using a printable calendar, a small pocketbook, or whiteboard.
- Not the best method for number based people
- Pay cycle can be in two different months (pages)
#2 Make a List
Making a list of bills is the second method we cover to help you track your monthly bills. This is the way that I personally track our bills.
What is it?
This method is as simple as it sounds. You list out all the bills due in order and include the due date, the bill description and the amount.
Start with your next paycheck and list every bill from there.
How do I use it?
I used to take a random scratch piece of paper and write my paycheck amount at the top. Beneath it, I would write how much is going to savings, and all my bills with their due dates. If I reached the next pay day I would add that in there and continue on.
Essentially it is the calendar method in list view (also a good method I just thought of).
In order for you track your monthly bills with the List Method, each line will have the due date (7/12), the bill description (Auto Insurance), and the amount ($45.00). Once it is paid, go ahead and cross that puppy off. I will then make calculations off to the side subtracting each bill as it is paid from the overall paycheck.
Now, I am using Google Sheets so I can access it anywhere and don’t lose any papers with all my bills and income on it. (Please don’t tell Mr. TTF, but this definitely happened once or twice… he’s a crazy for security.)
With Google Sheets now, I am able to keep a loooong running list of all our bills. Each pay day will first list the paycheck amount, the savings amount, and then all of the credit cards and balances so we can pay those off every paycheck. Then the additional payments needed in that period that are due sporadically. Doing this on the computer allows me to copy and paste easily from paycheck to paycheck.
Benefits of Bill Lists
- Ideal for list or number oriented people as it is easier to include the amount due
- Easier to add all the items you pay every payday (Savings, all Credit Cards)
- Easy to use online and keep a long running list
Disadvantages of Bill Lists
- Not “pretty” like a color coded calendar is
- Harder to keep on pen & paper
- More difficult to add in additional bills
- The pay cycle could be on two separate papers
- Less secure on loose leaf papers
General Bill Paying Tips
Now that we went over just two of the thousands of methods you could potentially use, I do have few additional notes here at the end. First, these two methods are just some ideas to get you started. Once you start tracking your bills you will find what you like and what you don’t. Maybe neither of these systems will be what you end up with, but we recommend just starting!
Working with Credit Cards
You may have noticed that I didn’t discuss credit card due dates in too much detail with regards to either of the methods to track your monthly bills. You can definitely add credit card due dates to both methods as you would the rest of your bills. However, I highly recommend paying off all your credit cards every payday. This keeps the balances low and ensures you aren’t spending more than you earn!
If you decide to pay off your credit cards every payday, then you would put their “due date” as the same date as each payday.
If you decide to pay off your credit cards the traditional way once a month by their due date, then here are a few additional tips.
Do not put the minimum payment as the amount due, you need to pay the full statement balance. Bonus points (to you and your credit) if you pay the entire balance down to zero. This is considered as paid off when your balance is zero. This helps boost your credit score and proves that you aren’t spending more than you earn.
And don’t forget for every new credit card you get (which should not be often) be sure to update your bill pay method of choice with your new due date!
I highly recommend setting up as many payments as you can to auto pay. This works best for reoccurring payments that are always the same amount (Subscription services probably make you, but car insurance, car lease, rent). Just be sure you won’t overdraft and that you don’t overpay! Eventually, if you are consistently checking all your bills and paying on time, you can take them off but again missing a payment is a big NO-NO so just rather be safe than sorry!
Stay Ahead of the Game
Now even though you are planning out your bills for each pay period you should still be thinking into the future. Always take a look at the next pay period and be sure the next paycheck will be able to cover everything there. Sometimes all your big bills fall into one pay period and one paycheck won’t be enough to cover it so you will need to plan ahead and see if there is anything for next period that you can pay now.
You will also want to add all your annual bills to the your tracker. Some examples of annual bills would be car insurance, car registration, tuition costs, and if you move often, rental deposits.
Now that we have reviewed two simple methods for you to track your monthly bills, what do you think? Does one better fit your personality or your lifestyle? Which one can you start today?
One last note to mention… This is a great method to get started with working on your finances. This is for those that are living above their means (spending more than they earn) or those at net even (living exactly paycheck to paycheck). These methods help to encourage saving first and ensure all bills are paid first, rather than the bar tab on Friday night.
The song “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull is the exact opposite of how you should be living! (This song actually stresses me out to no end…)
Send me your methods of bill tracking! If you need help getting a handle on your bills, please let us know! We would love to help you out.