Last week, I covered what our budget is and how we live on $1,800 every month. But knowing what is coming in and what is going out is only half the battle. The other half? Making sure those bills get paid! This can be a bit tricky and overwhelming, especially if, like us, you get paid more often than once a month. I’m going to show you my easy system for keeping track of when to pay, what to pay, and how to plan ahead. To do this we’ll be using Google’s best kept secret: Google Keep.
So what is Google Keep?
Over the years, Google has released a variety of services aside from just being a search engine. This includes apps like Gmail, Calendar, and Maps. Keep is simply another one of these services. Released in 2013, Google Keep is at its very core a note taking app. You can add checklists, images, links, and more to your notes to customize them in whatever way works best for you.
My favorite aspect of this app (and most of Google’s other services) is accessibility. You can switch seamlessly from phone to computer to tablet.
It sounds great, but what does Keep have to do with budgeting?
Nothing, actually, and that is the beauty of it! Google Keep is one of those things where you really can form it into whatever suits your needs.
I stumbled upon using it for paying bills by accident. Whilst running across campus to make it to class, I remembered a bill we had forgotten to pay. At the time, I was just keeping a long, general to-do list of everything I needed to get done, so I added the bill to the list. From there I began adding other bills and as they overran my list I decided to make a note just for bills.
I used this basic approach for a while, simply adding bills and checking them off as they were paid, but we started to have issues keeping everything paid. Our “pay as you go” approach was often times leaving us broke by the end of the pay period and dipping into our savings for basic necessities. So, I needed to find a new system. After quite a while of trial and error, I’ve finally narrowed down the approach that keeps us on track, on time, and in the know about where our money needs to be.
Step 1: Determine When Everything Needs to be Paid
Start a new note with a checklist of every recurring bill you have and when it is due. On bills that have both a due date and a late charge date, I go with the latter.
On bills that are due not on a specific date but a recurring part of the month (i.e. first Monday, third Tuesday) just put down the next time that bill is due.
Your list should look like this:
Step 2: Write out 2-3 Months of Bills
Using the sequence you just created, plan out the next 2-3 months of bills. Add the month and date that they are due, and keep them in chronological order.
Your list should look like this once you’ve finished this step:
Step 3: Figure out Paydays
Looking at your list, add in the appropriate spot what days you get paid. Be sure to include the date and how much you will bring in. If you aren’t sure how much that is, go with the lower end of what you expect.
We get paid every two weeks, so that is what I’ll be using, but the principle is the same for any pay schedule.
You should now have something like this:
Step 4: Add in Bill Costs & Sum of Bills for Each Paycheck
Next to each bill, include the dollar amount you will (or expect) to pay. Make sure to update this as you receive your actual statements for each month.
Looking at the bills due between each payday, add them together. At this point I add space in between each pay period, just to make it easier to understand.
As you can see, from 8/25 to 9/8 we owe $700 in bills(just a friendly reminded these are made up amounts). We’ll bring in $1000 though, so that’s okay. However, from 9/8 to 9/22, we owe $1100 but will only bring in $1000. So what do we do? Simple. We pay that credit card bill ahead of time, so now we’ll have $100 leftover with each of those paychecks. Obviously trying to make $100 last 2 weeks is a terrible idea, but you get the point.
Here’s the before and after:
Step 5: Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Add bills and paydays as you see fit. I like to keep around 4 months planned out ahead of time. Remember to check bills off as you pay them. We pay all of ours the day the paycheck comes through, so we don’t have to worry about forgetting anything or accidentally overspending.
Do you think you’ll try this system? How do you keep up with bills? Let me know in the comments!
I should probably add I am in no way being compensated for this post. (But Google, feel free to hit me up.)