I’ll be honest; our finances were a mess when we started using CheckMATE. I was disorganized and money was really tight when we first got married. George had just started a management training program in a Fortune 200 company and that required a ton of extra hours each week. I was the natural bookkeeper and it became my job to make sure deposits were made and bills were paid.
I stunk at that job but I learned a few tips that may help you do a lot better!
- Realize there’s a big payoff in getting current on your bills. Just one overdue fee can easily be $30. One bounced check can cause a domino affect with soaring costs. (A mistake like that cost me several hundred dollars when I was in college.) Paying on time can give you leverage down the road in lowering your interest rate on some bills. Not paying on time can mean an instant hike in interest payments. Those fees get large and can eat a lot of your money away.
Once I realized what it was costing us, it helped me get motivated to get them paid on time.
- Make sure your finances are organized. I now have a designated place where bills go as they come in the mail. I also keep a calendar/planner with me and note dates of any bills are auto-drafted or emailed to me. Keep a checkbook and stamps in the same place so that you won’t get distracted and forget to get something in the mail. I realize many people are doing everything on-line and that’s great; it simplifies the whole job.
- When you start using CheckMATE, just budget for the money you have in your checking account. You’ll have to allocate that money for the bills that are currently due and things that absolutely have to be bought or paid for such as food and housing. Don’t allocate money to categories that could be considered extras until you are current.
- Continue working this way each time you get paid. Once something is current, you can divide the amount you usually pay by the number of pay periods in a month to know how much to start allocating on a regular basis. Eventually (and it will happen quicker than you’d think as soon as you stop getting hit with late fees) everything will hum along smoothly and you’ll have extra money in your budget.
- The fun begins when you start having money leftover after all the bills are paid. Now you can add new spending categories for your debt snowball, savings goals and extras such as new clothes, entertainment, and vacations. You’ll be able to spend money in those categories without having to worry if you’ll have enough to pay your bills.
After a bill is paid, if there is money leftover in that category, you can easily transfer it to another category. You can put it on the next bill that’s behind or if you are caught up, it can go where ever you’d like! I find using this system helps me be more careful not to waste anything and my reward is seeing extra dollars go to something we really want to buy!