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How to organize finances and bill paying

Most personal and family expenses are repetitive and payable on a regular monthly basis and lend themselves well to the same routine each month. This is true with tithing and other Church donations, except no monthly statement is received to remind us of these essential monthly financial responsibilities.

I have learned the following:- A well-planned annual budget and living within it are primary essentials to successfully managing finances on either a personal or family basis.

A cardinal rule is to limit the use of credit cards as a means of living within a budget. A credit card should be used only as a convenience in managing expenditures.

A rule to establish is paying tithing and Church donations with the first check written each new month.

A second check should be written for contribution to your savings account or other investments.

A set place should be chosen to accumulate bills received in the mail or in any other way.

A due date should be determined for each of your monthly bills.

A set date should be established for payment of all regular bills. Strictly follow the schedule each month in order to avoid interest charges for late payments.

A good idea is to use an automatic bank withdrawal system for payment of those bills eligible for this service. This is also a good system for savings accounts or other investments.

Discipline and dedication to a goal of solvency are essential to successful financial management of personal or family funds. - John E. Carr, Salt Lake City, Utah

What we did:

Keep financial log

Ask your ward or branch financial clerk for a copy of the pamphlet "One for the Money" by Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Keep a complete daily log of all expenses for one month; establish categories.

Set required priorities, tithing and savings.

Establish goals for six months, one year, five years, 10 years and estimated cost.

Bank half of each monthly increase in savings each time a payroll raise is received.

Keep one credit card for emergency. Destroy/

pay off others. To pay off debts, list all debts owed, smallest to largest or ones with highest interest charged. Pay required amount each month plus the interest charged. When the first debt is paid, add that payment to the next debt in addition to the regular payment. Continue until debts are paid off.

Do not finalize for at least a week expenses outside of need to give time to review. - Earle Le Van, Tucker, Ga.

Liquid savings

We participate in retirement savings plans through our employers, and we have a liquid savings account in the event of an emergency or unexpected loss of income. We have a separate savings account that we call our "loan account," which we "borrow" from when large purchases are made. We borrow from ourselves and pay ourselves back with interest. - Eileen Luker, South Jordan, Utah

Projected income

Our financial organization is based on three things:

Pay our obligations to the Lord.

Save something every month.

Spend less than we earn.

We set up a chart or spreadsheet once a month with projected income and expenses. All bills and receipts are collected on a basket on my desk. Once a week I update the budget using the bills and receipts that have been received the previous week. - Cheryl Driggs, Spring, Texas

Sorted immediately

I have total responsibility for our household bills, and my husband has total responsibility for his business and expense accounts. When the mail comes, it is sorted immediately and household bills are put in a box. On Monday morning, I open all the bills, record the amount and due date for each bill in a financial notebook and file them. I then pay all the bills that need to be paid at that time and review and bring up-to-date all our accounts.

Electronic debiting and a good computer financial program make this job easier and quicker now, but the basic discipline has to be supplied by us. - Marilyn Brown, Wheaton, Ill.

Future use

Problems that surface in bill paying are those like life insurance, car insurance, taxes and others that come due on a quarterly, semi-annual or even an annual basis. I handle them by breaking all of them down to an amount per pay period. When the amounts are added together, I put aside that much per pay period for future use when the bills come due. I deposit my check and on payday I subtract the amount that needs to be set aside. It is still in the bank, but I take it away from the balance that shows in my checkbook. Then I know how much money I really have. I keep a separate total of how much is in my big bill paying fund. I add the amount each payday and subtract when I pay one of those designated bills. I also include a small amount for car repairs, tires and batteries, etc. - Neldon B. Jensen, Salt Lake City, Utah

Do homework

Study the interest rates, the late fees, the fine print. Talk to money management people for credible advice and help. In short, study; do your homework. - Katherine K. Duffin, Missoula, Mont.

Check status

Create a check point - make a net worth statement by doing the following:

List assets: home equity, car equity, furniture, etc.

List liabilities: mortgage, current bills, taxes, etc.

Subtract liabilities from assets - this equals net worth.

Repeat this quarterly, semi-annually or annually to watch financial status.

Create a budget by recording disbursements for three months. Let this be your budget for the next three months. - Robert D. Koster, Sunset, Utah

Easy to review

I have a three-ring binder with dividers labeled for each utility bill, bank statement, credit card, insurance policy, mutual fund statement and even a section for auto service repairs. It is easy to review past statements and have everything in one place. At the end of the calendar year, I clear the binder of any important tax-related items to be stored with my tax return and dispose of those items no longer needed. - Mark W. Buckley, Modesto, Calif.

Balance statement

Balance your bank statement when it arrives. This is much easier than procrastinating. - Elaine J. Peck, Denver, Colo.

How to checklist:

1 Pay tithing, offerings first; then save a percentage

2 Set budget, live within means; limit credit card use

3 Set place to put, pay bills; pay on time, avoid late charges

4 Plan for the future, determine wants, needs; be prepared

WRITE TO US:

May 10 "How to cope with a compulsive disorder."

May 17 "How to be emotionally self-reliant."

May 24 "How to have an enjoyable family vacation."

May 31 "How to encourage reverence during Primary."

June 7 "How to help children, youth suffering from clinical depression."

June 14 "How to select and plan a project for the July 19 Churchwide service commemoration of the sesquicentennial."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to help young people show respect for authority in school," "How to unleash the personal impact of scripture study in your life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: forum@desnews.com. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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