THE ULTIMATE POST WEDDING NAME CHANGE CHECKLIST

As someone who just got married, I get to experience the hell that most brides go through after the wedding, even though I decided to skip the whole wedding part by doing it all at the courthouse.  While the wedding itself usually gets most of the attention from other brides… the decorations, the dress, the flowers… anyone planning a name change will benefit from knowing just how much goes into that process.

I did some digging to see if the Internet offered some sort of name change mega-checklist that would cover all of the bases; a one-stop shop that wouldn’t leave newlyweds exhaustively scouring the web for answers.  Needless to say, I came up short in my search.  I found that Websites either covered only the basic name-change processes, or they required some annoying hoops to jump through before revealing more detailed information.

So I took matters into my own hands.  I did my research.  And now, I present to you…

THE ULTIMATE NAME CHANGE MEGA CHECKLIST FOR MARRIAGE

#1… COVER THE BASICS: Take care of the three basics (marriage certificate, Social Security card and state I.D.) as soon as possible.  Once you get these out of the way, changing your name on any other legal documents, accounts, or records will be much easier!

Getting a marriage license and marriage certificateMarriage Certificate (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage license)

You’re married!  Congratulations!  Now, the marriage license you signed post-nuptials needs to go to your local courthouse. Your wedding officiant will often take care of this part for you, but you may have to do it yourself.  You can get a copy of your marriage certificate at the courthouse (or from them via mail) after they receive your marriage license.  Each state has its own process for obtaining a marriage license and certificate, so be sure to check your local laws for processes and fees.

 

Change name on drivers license or state I.D.Driver’s License or State I.D. card (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate)

Head to your local license center or DMV to take care of this one; it can’t be done via mail or online.  All you need to bring is your marriage certificate to prove that your wedding did in fact happen, and you aren’t just changing your name because you’re looking for something fun to do with your day (hopefully you have better things to do than stand in line at the DMV).

Change name on Social Security CardSocial Security card (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate, your old Social Security card and current form of I.D.)

Unless you feel comfortable mailing in the originals of all of the important documents you need to present, plan on bringing these items to your local Social Security office. You should also be prepared to wait in line for up to an hour or two, depending on the location of your Social Security office. It will come in handy to get a head start on the process by printing Form SS-5 and filling it out before you go in.

#2…GET PERSONAL: You’ve taken the steps to make your name change official.  Now you can get to updating your personal life.  Let the updating fun begin!

 MAIL… (WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED: Updated form of I.D.)

USPS Name ChangeTo inform the US Postal Service of your name change, you can fill out a Change of Address form.  You can do this online or stop by your local post office.  The USPS website asks that if you are changing your address and receiving mail under more than one name (in this case, your maiden name and your married name) you should fill out two different forms for each name.  You will probably have mail coming to you under both your maiden and married name for some time, so it’s best to be sure the post office is aware of any name you currently or used to go by.  If you have a P.O. box or another separate mailbox (UPS Store, Pak Mail, etc.) be sure they are aware of your name change as well.  This brings us to the next category……

MEMBERSHIPS and SUBSCRIPTIONS…

Name change on newspaper subscriptionUpdate any subscriptions or memberships you may have under your former name.  This includes magazines, newspapers, Jelly of the Month, anything that is sent to you either by mail or email.  If you belong to any local or national clubs, groups, organizations or perhaps a local co-op, contact them for instruction on how to change your name.  Subscriptions that are mailed to you may require filling out another change of address with the updated name.  Memberships include things like Costco/Sam’s Club, REI, fitness centers, NRA, local museums, Co-ops, etc.

 

VEHICLE… (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate, photo I.D.)

Changing your name on car titlesWhen you head to your local license center to update your I.D., do yourself a favor and save an extra trip by updating your vehicle title too!  Each state has its own requirements, so do your research to see if you have to fill out any extra forms and save yourself some time by filling them out before you get to the DMV!  When you change your name on your vehicle title, your registration should be automatically updated.  To manage your insurance policy you will need to get in touch with your provider.  Every company is different and may require specific forms for you to fill out.

 

HEALTH (medical, dental, etc.)… (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate)

Changing your married name on medical recordsYou will need to update your name on your medical records.  You can send a form like this to each of your medical providers, along with a copy of your marriage certificate so they are aware of the change.  Get in touch with your medical insurance provider and find out what they require for an official name change.  Don’t forget your chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, or any other specialist you see regularly.  This is also an opportune time to inform healthcare practitioners that your spouse can have access to your medical records.

 

AT YOUR JOB…

Changing your name at your job after marriageBe sure to inform HR of your name change.  You will need to fill out an updated W-4 form.  Also, depending on where you work, you will need to update your name to accommodate your work presence.  Are you a teacher?  Let your students know you go by a different name now.  Wear a name badge?  Get a new one!  Do you get paged over an intercom?  Inform your receptionist.  Have business cards or stationary?  Get those updated too!  These tasks aren’t quite as urgent, but for consistency’s sake, be mindful of the people you work with so you don’t cause confusion.  And please, if you have any high security clearance at your job, do let them know you will be going by a different name now.

SCHOOL (former or current students)… (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate)

Changing your name on a diplomaInform the registrar’s office of your name change.  They will probably require some sort of proof that you’ve changed your name.  The same goes for those who have already received a diploma.  Contact the registrar’s office and let them know if you would like your name changed on your transcripts or your degree.  They may have you fill out an official name change form for their records.

 

 

#3…GET FISCAL: You probably want to be sure your money is covered, so jump on top of any financial, billing and repayment accounts as well as your tax documents.

BANK ACCOUNTS, CREDIT CARD and INVESTMENTS… (WHAT YOU NEED: Current form of identification with updated name, and Marriage Certificate)

Changing your name on financial recordsEach of your financial institutions and credit card companies may have different policies for proving your legal name change.  When changing your name at your bank, be sure you also get updated checks and debit cards with your new name so everything is consistent.  If you do not change your name on any financial accounts, then making deposits or withdraws may prove to be a bit of a hassle.  Better to be pro-active on this one so you can be sure all of your finances are in order!

 

BILLS or RENT… (WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED: Photo I.D. or credit card with updated name, Marriage Certificate)

Changing your name with utility companiesDepending on the size of the company, you may be able to fill out a form online, but it’s best to get right to the source and call whoever is sending your bills for specific instruction (here’s a brief overview of how to change your name on your electricity bill).  If you are renting property, be sure to get in touch with your landlord so he/she is aware that your rent checks will be coming from a different name.  If you have an account number with your billing companies, some may assign a new one to you.  Some companies may require you to simply provide proof of your new name, while others may require a bit more work……

 

LOANS (INCLUDING STUDENT LOANS)… (WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED: Marriage certificate, updated form of I.D.)

Changing your name with loan officersMake sure your loan repayment company is aware that you have a different name.  They’re already hunting you down for your money… so you don’t want to give them a reason to think you’ve up and changed your identity to avoid your debt. Each loan repayment company is different.  For example, one student loan company asks that a name change be submitted by mail with your former and new names, account number and proof of name change.  Others let you complete the whole process online.

 

TAXES… (WHAT YOU NEED: Current Social Security card with updated name)

Changing your name with the IRS after marriageBe sure you have updated your information with the Social Security Administration before filing your next tax return.  They should inform the IRS of your name change within 10 days of updating your Social Security information (more info on getting a new Social Security card above under COVER THE BASICS).  Be sure the IRS knows of your name change before making your tax return so you can avoid any unnecessary delays.  The IRS Website has some good information for recently married tax payers.

 

#4…GET TECHNICAL: You’ve covered it all.  But don’t forget about any other official documents that are a part of your life.

Passport name changePASSPORT… (WHAT YOU NEED: Marriage certificate, current U.S. passport, recent color photo, application form)

To update your U.S. passport there are different forms required, depending on how long ago your passport was issued.  Luckily, you don’t have to stand in any long lines for this one; you can just mail everything in!  You are encouraged to send in your passport and other official documents using a traceable delivery method.

 

Changing your name on your last will and testamentLAST WILL… (WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED: Codicil)

In the past, when making a minor update to your Last Will and Testament (like a name change) you would fill out a codicil.  While this might sound more like some crazy prescription drug, it’s not (at least not yet).  A codicil is a legal document that has been around since the 1400’s, and can be used to make minor changes to your will.  However, you may just be able to tack the noted change on to the end of your will and sign it in front of two witnesses.  Check your local laws or get the inside scoop from a lawyer if you want the best answer.

Voter registration name changeVOTER REGISTRATION… (WHAT YOU NEED: Updated form of I.D. and updated Social Security card)

Each state has its own requirements.  Generally, if you are already registered to vote and have not moved outside of the county you were already registered in, you can provide proof of I.D. and your updated Social Security card to get the job done.  If you have moved outside of your formerly registered county, you will need to re-register to vote.

If you live in Georgia, you have the option to automatically register to vote with your new name when you change your name on your driver’s license.

 

#5…A FEW MORE THINGS: To keep your mind chugging along on the name-change train, here are a few more specifics that weren’t mentioned in the information above…

Email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook…) Other online accounts (Ebay, PayPal, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes…)
Airline company (if you are part of a mileage rewards program) Veterinarian, pet groomer… and don’t forget to tell your pet!
Fitness centers (yoga studio, climbing gym, health club…) Chiropractor, orthodontist, guru, babysitter, neighbor…

 

Whew!  You did it!  You’ve got a lot going on in your life!  There are surely other things that may require you to give an update of your name, but hopefully this list gave you a good idea of just how thorough a process changing your name can be.  You’ve done all the work… you’ve covered the basics, gotten personal, fiscal and technical…  Now ready for the last step?

RELAX!  Spend some time with the person who got you in this mess in the first place… your new spouse!:)

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52 Week Home Organization Challenge-Week 12 Receipts

In this week’s challenge you’ll take the steps to create a personal tax organizer system, and to organize receipts, to make tax time as simple as possible.

I chose to do this challenge this week for two reasons. The first is that it fits quite well within our current emphasis on dealing with our paper clutter and getting our financial and other paper more organized.

In addition, I wanted to do this Personal Tax Organizer Challenge sometime in March when you were most likely thinking about taxes, since the April 15th deadline for filing is fast approaching.

Are you new here? The Create A Personal Tax Organizer System And Organize Receipts Challenge is part of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

This week’s tasks will not be too hard for most people, since if your taxes are easy to do, your organization system for receipts and tax documents can be simple too.

On the other hand, the more complicated your tax situations is, the more onerous your organizing requirements may become.

This challenge is geared towards creating a personal tax organizer system that leans towards simplicity, since that is realistically all that many of us need.

However, if you do a lot of itemization of deductions, or have a small business or partnership for example, always consult a tax professional to find out what types of items to file and keep for reference for your taxes.

Step 1: Understand The Broad Categories Of Receipts So You Can Organize Them Easily

The first step in the Create a Personal Tax Organizer System and Receipt Organization Challenge is to conceptually understand the various categories of receipts, so you can deal with them accordingly.

Here are the broad categories of receipts that you should consider, and categorize each separate receipt into when dealing with your paperwork on a weekly basis.

  • Receipts for minor purchases, most of which you’ll need to reference in a couple of months, at the max, or never again
  • Receipts for major purchases, which you should keep as part of your personal home inventory to help you with insurance claims, warranties, etc. if needed in the future
  • Receipts for real property or cars, such as your home or other large assets, which eventually may be needed for tax purposes to show gain or loss, or depreciation, for example, but not in the current year
  • Receipts that will back up deductions or other entries on your tax return for this current year

Step 2: Make A Habit Of Dealing With Your Receipts And Any Tax Documents Weekly

The key to success with the Personal Tax Organizer And Receipt Challenge is to get in the habit of dealing with and filing your tax documents and receipts on a regular basis, so they don’t pile up, and you forget what a certain receipt or piece of paper signifies, or lose it in a pile of stuff.

In last week’s challenge, about organizing bills, I asked you to set aside a set period of time on a weekly basis to pay bills, and deal with other financial matters. One of those financial matters you should deal with during this weekly paperwork meeting with yourself is any receipts and tax documents that you have received or accumulated over the week.

If you haven’t set up this weekly schedule yet, check out the previous challenge for more details on what this entails.

In the steps below I’ll share with you the types of tasks you should do, during this paperwork session, related to receipt organization (which will take you about 5-10 minutes maximum, if you have just a normal amount of receipts to deal with).

During this time you’ll look at each receipt or other tax document, figure out which of the four categories it belongs in, and then file it accordingly.

Step 3: Create Your Filing System For Minor Receipts

The third step in the Create a Personal Tax Organizer and Organize Receipts Challenge is to deal with the most common category of receipts, the minor little ones that you probably don’t need to look at again, or at least not for very long.

Examples of minor receipts are receipts for groceries, gas used for personal (non-business) cars, small clothing purchases, entertainment expenses, etc.

As you gather these receipts during the week place them in a designated envelope in your purse, or in your billfold, so you can keep them all in one place. Then, during your weekly paperwork session pull them out and review them to the extent necessary to check and see if your credit card bill was charged properly, or your check cleared, or fill out these purchases in your budget spreadsheet.

Then, just clip them all together, label them for the week as “miscellaneous receipts for week of ______” and throw them in your monthly bill folders I suggested using in last week’s challenge.

If you want to keep your receipts separate from your bill stubs (which I don’t think is necessary), you can use a smaller expandable folder which is the right size for receipts and cancelled checks.

I like this system, because it takes very little time to deal with the majority of your receipts this way, but you can still find a receipt you need, if you have to.

An example is that if you realize you need to return the pot you bought at Walmart that you bought two weeks ago you can go back to the right month’s file folder, find the pile of recipts for that week, look thorugh until you find the Walmart receipt, and grab it.

It may take a little longer with this system to find the receipt than if you had all your Walmart receipts date organized, but honestly, who needs to do this? You’ll save more time in the long run throwing them all in these monthly files, since the majority of the time you’ll never need to look at these receipts again.

Further, you’ll just get rid of these receipts at the same time you get rid of your old paid bills stubs during your annual purge (see the Organize Bills Challenge for more details).

Step 4: Create A System For Filing Major Receipts Necessary To Complete Your Personal Home Inventory

This step in the Create a Personal Tax Organizer System Challenge is actually covered more in a separate week of this challenge, so I’ll just reference it here now.

Basically, the idea is that you want to have proof of your large purchases, such as large appliances and electronics, etc. if a disaster occurs and you need to file a claim with your home or renters insurance company. Pictures and inventories of what you own help the insurance company, as well as seeing receipts of how much the items cost, when new (or new to you).

Read the instructions from that challenge for more ideas on how to organize receipts such as these. Further, we’ll touch again on many of these documents when we organize and store our home warranties in week #15 of the challenge.

Should You Consider A Receipt Scanner?

You may want to consider scanning your receipts and documents and storing them electronically, at least for categories 2-4 of the receipts. This can be especially helpful for cheap items, printed from a receipt roll on a cash register, which seems to have the ink fade after a couple of months.

If you are going to store receipts electronically, make sure you only save the ones worth saving though, so you don’t waste your valuable time scanning receipts you’ll never reference again. That’s why I don’t recommend scanning receipts that fall into the first category of minor receipts, for example.

Further, you need to have an adequate back up system for all electronic files if you decide to scan receipts to make sure you don’t lose anything if your computer’s hard drive crashes, for example.

Many people have scanners these days, and these will work for digitizing a few receipts here and there. However, recently companies have also created receipt scanners which easily scan documents of many sizes and store the material electronically, which are designed to have additional organizing benefits over regular scanners.

One of the leading brands is called NeatReceipts, and they have both mobile and desktop versions of these scanners which also have built in software which automatically extracts key information in the receipt that can then be exported into financial and tax software, such as Excel spreadsheets, Quicken, Quickbooks, Turbo Tax, etc.

I have to admit these receipt scanners look pretty cool, but they may be a bit of overkill for the average home. However, if you’ve got lots of receipts for work or a home business it may be worth considering one. Further, it appears the idea may still, at this time, be more advanced than the technology so read all the Amazon reviews and make a decision for yourself before purchasing one.

Step 5: Home Filing System For Tax Documents That May Be Used In Later Years, But Not Now

In step 5 of the Challenge, we’re figuring out how to organize one of two major categories of tax documents. This category of tax documents are really things we’ll deal with more next week, when we put the finishing touches on our home filing system, and keep track of home expenses, insurance documents, investments, etc., so don’t worry about it this week too much.

Just so you get an idea of what items this category includes, it includes, but is not limited to, records of retirement and non-retirement based investments, expenses incurred on your home, such as a new roof or furnace, etc.

These are documents you most likely would save anyway at least for the entire time you own that particular piece of property, but you may also reference them at tax time in a future year, such as if you sell or otherwise dispose of that property in a year.

A good rule of thumb for these types of documents is to keep them the entire time you own that piece of property, and then for six tax years thereafter if you had to reference it in your taxes the year you disposed of it.

Step 6: Create A Personal Tax Organizer System For Storing Your Tax Documents You’ll Reference In This Year’s Tax Returns

Finally, step 6 is where we get to the meat of the the Create a Personal Tax Organizer System Challenge, because it is where you actually organize your tax documents and receipts that you’ll reference this year, when you do your taxes.

The IRS gives very little guidance about how to organize your paperwork, merely saying:

You should keep your records in an orderly fashion and in a safe place. Keep them by year and type of income or expense. One method is to keep all records related to a particular item in a designated envelope.

IRS Publication 552: Recordkeeping For Individuals

As you pay bills, or otherwise get documents throughout the year that you will need to reference again when preparing your year’s tax returns it is important to put everything into a personal tax organizer system so everything is organized and ready to reference when you sit down to do your taxes (or give to your tax preparer).

I will caution that the more complicated your taxes, and the more documentation needed to support them, the more elaborate your personal tax organizer system needs to be. On the other hand, if doing your taxes is a fairly simple matter, go with a simplistic system to fit your needs. No need to complicate something that doesn’t need to be!

Tips For Creating Your Own Personal Tax Organizer System

Think of the categories of documents you need to save for tax time, such as documents showing the income you’ve received, the expenses you’ve had, and the deductions you want to take.

Create a filing system for a specific year using an expandable folder labeled with some categories unique to your situation, to properly categorize your tax documents. You don’t want to pull your hair out later when trying to work on your taxes having used the shoebox system to throw everything in together.

You should label the outside of the file with the year of the documents it contains, and later, once you actually file your returns, you’ll also keep a copy of your filed taxes for this year in the folder too. That way all the returns and all back up documentation stay together for easy access and reference later, if needed.

Example categories you may wish to include in your personal tax organizer system include the following (add or subtract to this list as needed, based on your some or unique circumstances):

  • Income (including documents received from third parties, such as form W2s and form 1099s)
  • Medical
  • Donations
  • Child care costs
  • Business or professional deductions
  • Tax correspondence (with IRS or state officials)
  • Student loan payments
  • Misc. receipts for other deductions
  • Payments of tax made throughout year (such as for quarterly estimated taxes, etc.)
  • Slot for your copy of your filed tax return, once it is completed

Once you’ve created this system, as you go through your receipts each week, or pay a bill that needs to be saved as documentation for your taxes later, merely slip it into the correct file of your personal tax organizer during your weekly paperwork session. You’ll thank yourself later for making it easy to reference all the right materials as you fill out all the necessary forms.

Step 7: Create A System To Purge Documents Periodically Without Causing Yourself Liability Worries

A frequent question is how long to keep tax records, and the personal tax organizer system you’ll create for every year? The short answer is “it depends.”

Frankly, the IRS doesn’t make it very easy for you to have a simple answer to this question, since there are always exceptions to the rule.

I tend to be conservative because I don’t want to get rid of paperwork if it may come back to haunt me, if for example, you have an audit or other encounter with the IRS. In my opinion, this trumps a little filing space since with my personal tax organizer system above all your tax documents will be held in one expandable folder or small filing system anyway, and it doesn’t take up too much room.

Many tax professionals suggest to hold onto your filed old returns forever (you can digitize them if you don’t want to keep track of the paper anymore), and to keep all supporting documents for at least six full tax years after you filed, since that is the longer limitations period for the IRS, typically.

There is even an exception to that rule though. If you never filed a return, or filed a fraudulent return, you should hold onto all documentation indefinitely, since there is no limitation period in those situations.

 

Thank you for joining me for week 12 of our 52 week home organization challenge! I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see you next week!

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I’ve been a bad bad blogger…

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything personal. I’ve been working so hard on organization (and actually working) that I’ve neglected you all. I’m very sorry… I can’t say that it will never happen again, because we know that eventually, it will. I am going to attempt to get better at actually getting on here and talking to you all though.

Where to start… Personal, right? Well……… I got married! That’s right folks, me and the Manchild finally tied the knot. {Insert kissy face photo here}

alicia and stevenYes, we got married by a judge at the court house… It’s what was right for us. I did at least coordinate mine, the Manchild’s, and both of the boys’ clothes to match that day though, and there are a few photos to prove it. And for everyone who thinks that getting married at the courthouse is not romantic and just oh-so-horrible, let me tell you, we still prayed, we still had our kiss (as evidenced in photo to the right) and we still had all the family there that we wanted/needed. And we still had a celebration later, with cake… No expensive 3-tier cake, but we had cake. :) And I finally (FINALLY!!!!) married the man of my dreams. That’s all the romance that this girl needs. :)

Ummm… I’ve gone back to work. About 3 months ago, I had a job offer come out of nowhere, and after some consideration (and a lot of haggling) I accepted it. It’s been fantastic. I still feel like I work for myself, but I have a paycheck that I can count on, and I love the few people that I work with (and the fact that I get to go home at the end of the day).

I’m not reading as much anymore… I have to get back on top of that. If anyone has any good books to recommend, I would love to hear them! I wish that Nicholas Sparks would crank another one out sometime soon… I’m dying to read anything that he may have next (especially considering that his own personal life took a twist, I wonder if that may effect his writing?).

Oh, on another note with the whole getting married thing… Apparently, it’s not a good idea to tell your husband that you’re still using your maiden name on stuff because his name sounds funny with yours. Sorry Manchild, I’ve had 28 years with one name, and it’s a little hard to give it up. I did legally change my name, I just keep forgetting to tell people what my new last name is… Even though I do happen to love it. :) Just taking some getting used to.

Another thing about getting married is the idea of putting down roots somewhere… We already have some well established roots in the area, and I love my little house, but the thought has started crossing my mind that it may be time to look for a new, larger house… And no, not because we are expecting (we already have a puppy, that’s enough baby for us) but because the boys are getting older and I want them to have their own space. We haven’t found anything that comes close to meeting our criteria yet (except the house next door) but I’m still excited to think of the possibility of having a place to truly call our own, and somewhere that I can decorate as I choose to.

Lastly, for the first time in my adult life, I will be taking a vacation this summer! I have been planning and looking for the perfect place. It probably won’t be anything fancy, and we may actually have a blog post about a vacation on a budget. :)

Well, that’s all for today folks… I’ll talk to you all soon! :)

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52 Week Home Organization Challenge- Week 11 BILLS

This week’s challenge is about how to organize bills, so you can pay them on time, find them if you need to reference them again, and finally learn how long to keep paid bills before tossing them.

I doubt that paying bills is in on your list of favorite things to do, but they are a fact of life and cannot be avoided.

There are also real financial penalties for paying them late, or not being able to prove you paid them at all, even if you did.

Therefore, in this challenge our goal is to organize systems in your home and life to get this job done as efficiently as possible.

Along with helping you avoid any financial penalties, these systems will help you not worry about what hasn’t gotten done, or if bills are falling through the cracks, so you can get on to more fun things in your life.

Are you new here? The Organize Bills Challenge is part of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

Step 1: Sort And Gather Unpaid Bills Into One Area Of Your Home

If you worked on last week’s challenge, about creating a home mail center, you’ve already done this step for the Organize Bills Challenge, since you’re already corralling your mail and sorting through it as it comes in the door of your home.

The reason you’ve got to keep all your bills in one location is to make sure you deal with each one of them during your weekly paperwork session (see step 2 below), and don’t forget some of them are in your purse, while others are by the bed, and others are on the kitchen table buried under a big stack of other papers, for example.

When you receive any bills in the mail I suggest quickly opening the envelope and writing the due date for the bill on the front of the envelope it came in, so you make sure you know by what date it needs to be paid, and don’t miss the deadline.

31 day slot wooden bill organizer
31 Slot Monthly Bill Organizer [Click to purchase on Amazon.com]

If you wish to corral your bills in a specific bill organizer, such as one which helps you differentiate the due dates for the bills, you can use a product such as the one shown to the right:

Step 2: Set A Weekly Schedule To Focus On Your Household Finances And Pay Bills

The next step in the Organize Bills Challenge is to set up a weekly paperwork session for yourself to pay bills, focus on household financial issues, and deal with any other paperwork you need to do around your home.

Why should you do this weekly? There are several reasons that a weekly schedule for bill paying works best, even if you don’t get paid every week, but instead twice a month, monthly, every two weeks, or like me, since I work for myself, irregularly.

These reasons include:

  • No matter when you get paid, bills come due at various times during the month, and typically the due dates have nothing to do with your schedule for getting paid
  • Dealing with paperwork weekly, as opposed to daily, when you receive it, lets you batch these types of tasks together, which saves you time
  • Conversely, you can easily miss deadlines if you let paperwork sit too long, but typically if you are habitual about it, letting something sit for a maximum of a week won’t be a problem
  • It is easier to make something you do every week a habit, than it is to try to spread out the schedule into longer periods between activity

I tend, during this weekly session when I pay and organize bills, to also organize receipts, make phone calls related to bills or other home related issues, work on the family budget, balance my checkbook, review my online financial accounts, deal with medical or other insurance claims, make the meal plan and grocery list for the week, update the family calendar, send out notes and greeting cards, and other such activities that need to get done regularly.

Sort Bills For Payment Based On Due Date And Pay Ones Due Soon During Weekly Paperwork Session

During this weekly paperwork session the goal is to pay all bills that are coming due soon.

Many bills are paid on a monthly schedule, and their due dates tend to fall at the same time each month. If you pay attention to your bills’ due dates for a couple of months you will quickly be able to figure out which bills must be paid in which weeks to pay things in a timely fashion, and can organize bills payment accordingly.

Look at the due dates for all bills, subtract seven days for mailing and processing them (that is an extra cushion for you, to be on the safe side), and you know the last day you can mail them out to be paid (make sure mail runs that day, otherwise subtract another day).

Then, if you pay bills regularly on a specific day of the week each week, as I’m suggesting you do, you can calculate which of those bills needs to be paid during this week’s paperwork session to meet your deadlines, and can’t wait to be paid during next week’s session.

As you pay each bill make a note on your part of the bill you keep in your records the date you paid it, and the check number (or confirmation number if you paid online), so that if you have a dispute later about payment you can tell, quite easily, what you did and reference the right paperwork quickly.

Special Instructions For Online Bill Pay

I realize that not all people pay all their bills by check anymore, nor do they receive all their bills in the mail, but instead many people have chosen to go paperless. However, whether you pay bills online or once you receive them in the mail you’ve got to keep track of them, and this weekly paperwork and financial planning session is when you do that.

There are some advantages to online bill paying, such as having payments automatically withdrawn from your checking account each month for certain regular bills, and not having to receive additional paper into your home that you have to then file.

However, handling things online instead of in an old-fashioned way does not mean you can abdicate responsibility for planning, following up, checking on things, and making sure everything works as it should.

In fact, since there sometimes is no paper to remind you of what’s happening, you’ve sometimes got to be more organized and methodical about how you deal with these types of payments.

For example, during your weekly paperwork session you should do the following related to online payments, to make sure you organize bills payments adequately:

  • Make sure you have adequate money in your account for all payments that will be drawn from your account soon
  • Track and confirm all automated payments that have been made
  • Make sure you haven’t missed any notices or issues that may have been sent to you via email regarding online bill pay
  • Pay any bills online you need to; and
  • Write down confirmation number for each bill you pay online

Should You Invest In Bill Payment Software?

There is no requirement that you get special computer programs or online software systems to help you with paying your bills each month. You can easily do all this paperwork by hand, or with a simple computer spreadsheet if you wish.

However, some people find it helpful to use a program to help them keep track of their spending, and budgeting.

One of the most widely used software programs available is Quicken, which can help you set financial goals and track them, along with planning and budgeting and bill paying. However, some people find it has so many bells and whistles it can be a bit overwhelming.

Step 3: Organize Bills After Payment For Quick Access In Your Filing System If Needed

The next step in the Organize Bills Challenge is to set up a simple filing system to keep track of your paid bill receipts and stubs in case you need to reference them again.

Most bills don’t need to be kept long term, but can be tossed after a certain period of time.

However, it is in your best interest to keep them around for approximately a year or two in case there is a dispute about payment or something like that, so you’ve got your records in place.

Further, if you actually do have a dispute about a bill it is best to keep such disputed records, even once you think everything has been resolved, for at least two to three years (or longer, depending on your state’s statute of limitations for contract disputes or open accounts).

In a couple of weeks we’ll talk in depth about setting up a filing system, but this week I’ll briefly discuss how to save these records of paid bills.

The easiest system, in my opinion, is to save all your paid bills by the month in which you pay them. That means, at the beginning of the year, you should create 12 folders, labeled January through December, and as you pay each bill just drop the paid bill into the correct month’s folder. In the alternative, get an expandable folder with twelve compartments (such as the one to the left, and have one of these designated for each year.) If you need to reference a specific bill just go to that month’s folder and retrieve it.

This system makes it really easy to file the paid bills at the end of your paperwork session too. You can just drop basically everything into the file folder and move on to the next task. It is so simple and easy there is no reason to put it off until later.

In my opinion, there is no need to have separate folders for each type of bill. The only exception to this would be bills that you need to keep as records for tax purposes. Those bills should be kept in a separate set of tax documents files that we’ll discuss more in depth in next week’s challenge.

Step 4: Create An Annual Routine For Getting Rid Of Old Paid Bills To Clean Out Your Filing System

The final step, in the Organize Bills Challenge, is to create an annual routine of purging your filing system of old papers. Again, we’ll discuss this in more detail in a couple of weeks when we take the Home Filing System Challenge, but here is the information specifically about bills.

At the end of each year, when you make your 12 file folders for the upcoming year for your paid bills, take a minute to throw away all the bills from about two years ago.

This will keep you from accumulating too much paper in your filing system that isn’t needed. Make sure to shred any documents which contain personal identifying information or account numbers that could be used for identity theft.

 

Thank you so much for joining me for week 11 of our 52 week home organization challenge! I can’t wait to see you all next week!

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52 Week Home Organization Challenge-Week 10 MAIL

This week’s challenge is to create a home mail organizer center, which will help you keep track of incoming and outgoing mail, plus to develop certain routines and habits to keep on track with mail organization.

Keeping track of your mail, and dealing with the papers you receive on a daily basis is really about setting up a workable system, and then building up habits and routines to deal with it, on a daily basis.

Once your system is set up, dealing with your mail daily need only take you 5-10 minutes, per day, maybe less. In addition, you’ll need to set aside some time weekly to deal with paperwork.

Are you new here? The Create a Home Mail Organizer Center Challenge is part of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

This Challenge Is The Beginning Of A Several Week Process To Conquer Paper Clutter

Paper clutter takes up a lot of our time and energy in our home, so I’ve devoted several weeks in the challenges to dealing with it, since you can’t have an organized home full of stacks of paper.

Because there is so much paper in the typical home, and so many types of it though, it would be impossible to tackle all the paper explosions in our house in one week. Therefore, this week’s challenge is really just laying the foundation for the next couple of weeks by starting to gain control of the influx of paper we receive on a daily basis.

However, the little bit of time investment we spend this week creating a home mail organizer center will set up the main part of your system for dealing with incoming mail, and will reap huge dividends for you in savings of time and anxiety over the long term.

Some of the benefits you’ll see once you begin dealing with your mail and other incoming papers in a more organized manner are the following:

  • No countertops and flat surfaces covered with stacks of paper
  • No wasted money on late fees and finance charges from paying bills late
  • No anxiety and worry that you’re forgetting something, such as an event or due date
  • You’ll save time not searching for lost or misplaced documents

So, are you ready to begin a several week process of conquering your paper clutter? If so, here are the steps to take this week, as part of the Create a Home Mail Organizer Center Challenge.

Step 1: Choose A Central Location In Your Home To Gather And Process Mail

The first step in the Create a Home Mail Organizer Center Challenge is to choose a central location in your home where you’ll gather and process your mail each day.

There is no right or wrong place to do this in your home, but I will tell you some useful criteria to keep in mind while you’re brainstorming where it could be:

  • Near a central location in your home where your family already dumps papers and mail that comes into the house daily, such as the kitchen counter, dining room table, by the door, etc.
  • Near a clear flat work surface
  • Close to your file storage area (which could be file cabinets, or portable or rolling file box, or in your home office for example)
  • Space for a small amount of home office supplies (see list below for more details about what to stock here)

Homes are all laid out in different ways, and everyone’s needs are different so the place you choose may not be ideal, but you’ve got to choose a designated place to create your home mail organizer center. Doing this haphazardly will just invite piles of paper all over the house, which is a recipe for disorganization.

Don’t forget, when choosing a spot, to involve anyone else in your home who also picks up the mail, such as your spouse or kids. They need to agree to the system and follow it too, otherwise you’ll have chaos, and the easiest way to get them to comply is to let them help make the decisions for where the center will be located.

Step 2: Gather The Right Equipment And Supplies In Your Home Mail Center

The next step in this challenge is to gather all the right supplies together for your home mail organizer center.

The most important of these supplies is the trash can, recycling bin, and/or shredder (such as the one to the right).

I’ve found one of the most important things to do each day is just throw away all the junk you don’t need, right away, so it doesn’t stay in your home a second longer than needed. This could be part of yourhome recycling center in your kitchen or mud room, or in your home office, for example.

In addition, here are the other supplies that you should have close to your home mail organizer center:

  • Tickler file, and/or inbox or basket for bills, other pending paperwork that needs to be dealt with during your weekly paperwork session (see steps 3-4 for more details)
  • Pens
  • Stationary and cards
  • Stamps
  • Stapler
  • Post it notes
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Paper clips and bigger binder clips
  • Small calculator
  • Address book and other contact information
  • Family calendar
  • Telephone (optional)
  • Computer (optional)

Some people like to have their mail and keys together, such as on a wall mounted mail organizer, even though you can’t have many home office supplies in a set up like this.

Others like something that keeps their mail and other supplies together, such as on a counter in the kitchen. Here are some examples of mail organizers available to suit your needs.

Step 3: Create A Habit Of Sorting And Purging Your Mail Daily, Including Using The Two Minute Rule

Once you’ve got your home mail organizer center in place somewhere in your home, you’ve got to use it, daily.

On a daily basis you should gather your mail, and other incoming papers that you’ve received that day (including kids school papers, papers from work, etc.) and take a couple of minutes to deal with them.

“Dealing with them” does not necessarily involve taking every step necessary to complete every action that piece of paper might require you to take. Instead, dealing with it involves examining every piece of mail and incoming paper and making a decision of where it will go in your home mail organizer center.

Here are your choices:

Choice 1: Trash, Recycle Or Shred It

This is one of my favorites, and should be used liberally. Don’t keep things you don’t need. If something is trash, treat it as such and don’t keep it in your house a second longer than necessary.

Choice 2: Pass It On To Someone Else To Deal With It (Delegate)

You will inevitably run across mail items that aren’t yours, or that should be dealt with by someone else in the family, or someone you’ve hired to assist you in various areas of your life, such as a lawyer, accountant, etc.

For each of these items, if you can delegate it right then, within two minutes, do so. If not, put a sticky note on it with the next action step to be taken (delegate to ________), and stick it in an inbox, basket, or file you’ve designated for paperwork you’ll deal with during your weekly paperwork time (see step 4 below for more information about this weekly appointment for yourself).

Choice 3: Information Not Needed Now, But Should Be Kept For The Future (File It)

If you get something you don’t need right now, but will need to reference in the future, place it in the right file right then and there, if possible.

If you can be disciplined enough to file weekly, at the end of your weekly paperwork session in your home, you can place these types of things in a “to be filed” file instead.

Choice 4: You Need To Take Action With It

Many pieces of mail, and other influxes of paper that you receive on a daily basis fall into the category of items you need to take action upon.

Examples of this type of mail or paperwork include bills, invitations, insurance and medical information, paperwork you need to read and study before it is filed, things you need to put on your calendar, etc.

Here is where you really need to implement the two minute rule. The two minute rule requires that you should not put off anything that takes you less than two minutes to do, right then.

The reasoning behind this rule is that if you put it down after you’ve picked it up and determined what you need to do with it, you’ll just have to re-remember in your mind what it was again alter, perhaps by re-reading the paper all over again in the future. That will waste at least two minutes of your time, so once you pick it up you’ve got to do it right them, if it takes less than two minutes to do it.

Examples of things you could do in two minutes including signing the permission slip or putting a date of an event on your calendar.

However, no one expects you to pay every bill as soon as it comes in, or make a phone call the second you read something requiring that action from you. You save more time by batching most tasks.

Therefore, when you sort your mail you place all of the things that you need to do, but that would take you more than two minutes, into your inbox, basket or tickler file, which is part of your home mail organizer center, to deal with later, during your weekly appointment for dealing with paperwork.

If your next action is obvious upon first sight, such as pay the bill, you don’t necessarily need to write yourself a note about what to do with that piece of paper before placing it in the inbox.

However, if you realize your next step is something more complicated, grab yourself a sticky note and write down what you’ve got to do next, so it is easier for you to accomplish your tasks during your weekly paperwork time without completely having to re-read or redo your thinking process again in the future.

Step 4: Designate A Weekly Appointment For Dealing With Paperwork

During next week’s challenge, about paying bills, we’ll go more in depth into the weekly paperwork appointment time.

Suffice it to say, right now, you just need to understand that you’ll be dealing with all this paperwork again later, and begin considering when in your weekly schedule you can designate time to work on household paperwork on a consistent weekly basis.

Step 5: Go Throughout The House And Gather Up Any Mail In Piles And Put It Into Your Home Mail Organizer Center

Finally, to the extent you’ve got paperwork, bills, and mail all over your home, your purse, your briefcase, etc. take the time this week to gather it all up.

If the paperwork is less than a month old, go ahead and process and sort it now, making a decision about each piece as suggested above in step 3.

However, if it is over one month old put it in a pile to be dealt with slowly, over the course of the next couple of weeks of this challenge, where we’ll be tossing, sorting, filing, etc.

The reason I’ve made this time period cut off of one month is because your mail is typically dealing with time sensitive items. You can’t undo what was done in the past, but you can start fresh now and deal with those things that come in as they come.

If you’ve got lots of old papers lying around trying to deal with everything right now will quickly overwhelm you, and you’ll be in danger of quitting. Therefore, this week just worry about the most recent papers.

Thank you for joining me on week 10 of the 52 week home organization challenge! I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see you again next week!

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