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How to Organize Bills for the Best Way to Pay Bills Each Month

How to organize bills? I show you easy bill organization systems and bill paying systems to maximize convenience and manage your financial life.

white desk with white and gold calculator, gold pen, text overlay" how to organize bills by due date (bill organization system)

Is your bill organization system a hot mess?

Perhaps you read that, and thought “What bill organization system are you talking about?”

No worries – no judgment here if you’ve never even thought about putting all your bills into some sort of system before.

Buckle up, and get ready to rethink everything about the way you pay your bills.

We’re going to talk about:

  • how to organize your bills and bill payments manually
  • how to organize your bills through automation
  • choosing the right bill-paying station for you and your family
  • the role of bill organization apps
  • …and tons more so that you never miss another bill again!

First up, why should you care about setting up a bill-paying system?

Reasons Why You Need to Organize Your Bills

Juggling bill payments throughout the month – both monthly bills you get every month and out-of-the-ordinary bills you get, say, from doctor’s appointments – can be downright stressful.

When there’s no system in place, it’s like stuff is coming at you from all different angles – it’s not fun to go to the mailbox, either.

Hold tight, because we’ll eliminate some of that.

But first, let me share with you several reasons why you need to organize your bills (to get you pumped about actually doing it!).

  • To stop missing due dates, saving you late fees
  • To increase your credit score
  • To prevent your interest rates from going up
  • To stop the feeling that whether or not you’ll have enough to cover your bills each month is a game of Russian roulette
  • To free up time to spend on other things – family, reading, starting a side hustle, earning more money, etc.
  • To get your sanity back!

Those are some really good reasons to get your bill system in check (some of them will even save you money!).

Next up, let’s lay out the most common bill-paying systems so that you can pick which one will work for you.

Psst: once you get your bill paying system down, you've GOT to check out Trim. They'll negotiate your bills on your behalf (like your pesky cable bill that keeps going up), and even show you recurring subscriptions you can cancel.

Choosing Your Bill Paying System

Your bill-paying system is literally the steps you take to process and pay all of your bills each month, put together into some sort of process that you can repeat over and over and over again.

You’ve got three options.

Option #1: Paper Bill Paying System

If you get most of your bills through the mail and pay most of your bills by check, then a paper bill-paying system is likely for you (unless you want to radically change your bill paying ways – see below for other options).


  • You have complete control over a paper bill-paying system. Meaning, you pay the bills exactly when you want to. If you don’t have enough to cover one? You wait until your next paycheck comes in. Stagger as much as you want, or pay them all in domino-like fashion.


  • All bills being paid rests in your lap. If you get sick, if you pass away, if you go on vacation – your bills may not get paid.
  • Some companies and organizations now charge an additional fee for this (or give a discount to people who set up automatic bill pay/go paperless).
  • You’re going to accumulate a ton of paper each month, so you’ll need a good filing system to remember what you paid when you paid it, and the history of what you paid last year.

System Setup:

  1. Set Up a Bill Paying Station at Home: This could be a binder, a desk, or any number of locations (see the section below for all your bill-paying station choices).
  2. Choose a Way to Track Due Dates: While you can just write the due date to each paper bill on the outside of its envelope as it passes through your door, a better way to track due dates to not miss them is to fill out a free printable bill payment checklist you can check off each month (or to use a bill organization app).
  3. Set Up a Master Bill Paying Information Sheet: Since bills will not get paid without you paying them, you definitely need to set up a master bill paying sheet for your spouse or in the event of an emergency, so that someone else can step in and see all the bills.

Option #2: Automatic Bill Paying System

Do you love the idea of setting up all of your bills (or as many as you can) to be automatically paid from your bank account? Then the automatic bill-paying system is for you.


  • You can set this up so that you, literally, don’t have to look at another paper bill again (or very rarely).
  • You’re much less likely to be late on bill payments with this method (one of the 33 most common money mistakes).


  • You have less control over finagling when to send bills out, so you might overdraft if you’re not careful (this is why some people actually get one month ahead of their bills, and THEN set up automation – then the money is already in their checking account to pay this month's bills each month).
  • You might stop looking at your bills altogether, and experience what I like to call “automatic bill creep” (see below for more info).

Psst: Got debt? You might also want to check out should I automated or manually pay my debt off?

System Setup:

  1. Set Up Direct Deposits: Visit your HR department at work, and fill out the paperwork to automatically deposit your paychecks into your checking account. You will need ID and a check for the routing number and bank account number (sometimes they need to void the check and attach it with your paperwork).
  2. Collect All Your Recurring Bills: Collect all of the bills that come in throughout the next month, and write them down on a sheet of paper (OR, go through your checking account for the past month and make a note of each bill that came out).
  3. Comb Through Sometimes-Recurring Bills: Off the top of your head – and from looking back over 3 months on your checking account – write down all of the bills you pay each year that don’t come in every month, but that come in often enough. Such as your annual HOA fees, quarterly estimated taxes, bills from a specific doctor’s office, etc. Even though you don’t pay these monthly, you want to set up automatic bill payment for each of these service providers as much as you can so that when you do have a charge at one, it’ll automatically pay it for you.
  4. Set Up Automatic Bill Payments or Online Bill Payment: You have two options when it comes to setting up automatic bill payments. Either you can set them up through your bank/credit union’s online bill payment system, or you can call each service provider separately (and use their website) to set up bill payment through them. If setting up individually, I’d set aside two hours to go online to their websites and set up automatic payment (either through a charge to your credit card, or through your bank account – if using your bank account, be sure to have a check handy so that you can fill in the routing number and account number).
  5. Open a Dedicated Bill-Paying Email Account: If you want to really automate and organize your bills, then open up a new email account and update each of your service providers with your bill-paying email address. This way, all of your alerts to due dates, paperless bills, and other news will go JUST to this bill-paying email account. *oh, snap* – you could possibly never see another paper bill again!

Bonus: You can make your system rewarding, as well. Open up a credit card that rewards you (points, cashback, etc.), then set up each of your automatic bill payments to this credit, and THEN, set up automatic bill pay to that credit card each month. BOOM. You’re still fully automatic, but you’re now funneling all your bills through a credit card to earn reward points on money you were going to spend, anyway.

Option #3: Hybrid Bill Paying System

Honestly, most of us will be using a hybrid bill-paying system. Maybe you don’t want to go full-on paperless, or maybe you just don’t want to take the time to set everything up to be automatic because you want to have more control over when certain bills get paid.


  • You can really customize this one, by setting up automatic bill pay for bills you don’t want to think about/know how much they are each month (fixed)/want to make sure you never miss (like the mortgage) while maintaining control over when you pay your variable bills (like utilities).


  • You’re not really getting the benefits of complete automation
  • This usually just happens, meaning it’s not intentional, so you might not have an actual system set up

System Set Up:

  1. Set Up Direct Deposits: Visit your HR department at work, and fill out the paperwork to automatically deposit your paychecks into your checking account. You will need ID and a check for the routing number and bank account number (sometimes they need to void the check and attach it with your paperwork).
  2. Collect All Your Recurring Bills: Collect all of the bills that come in throughout the next month, and write them down on a sheet of paper (OR, go through your checking account for the past month and make a note of each bill that came out).
  3. Comb Through Sometimes-Recurring Bills: Off the top of your head – and from looking back over 3 months on your checking account – write down all of the bills you pay each year that don’t come in every month, but that come in often enough.
  4. Decide Which Bills You Want to Automate and Which to Pay by Hand
  5. Set Up Automatic Bill Payments or Online Bill Payment: For the bills you want to automate, you have two options. Either you can set them up through your bank/credit union’s online bill payment system, or you can call each service provider separately (and use their website) to set up bill payment through them. If setting up individually, I’d set aside two hours to go online to their websites and set up automatic payment (either through a charge to your credit card, or through your bank account — if using your bank account, be sure to have a check handy so that you can fill in the routing number and account number).
  6. Decide which Day of the Month You’ll Pay the Rest: For your non-automated bills, how will you pay them? You can pay them on the 1st and 15th of the month, as they come in, or once a month before the first due date. Your choice!

Next up – it’s time to set up your bill-paying station, that physical space in your home where you both collect and pay bills.

Setting Up Your Bill Paying Station

It’s a great idea to have a bill-paying station set up somewhere in your home. This is the place that you will use to not only pay your bills, but to track them, and put them when they come in the mail – it's a one-stop, bill shop.

Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean you have to have a full desk or area designated to just bills; it can even be a binder or a box of folders.

You’ve got some awesome choices available to you:

  • Option #1 – Bill Paying Caddy: You can set up a bill-paying caddy, just like His and Her Money did, as your bill-paying station. Very portable!

  • Option #2 – Two-Drawer Bill Paying Station: This woman has a nifty station setup that directly ties into her bill-paying method of paying bills twice per month (per her payday cycle). Personally, I LOVE how out-of-sight the papers are. You can find a similar mail organizer here.

  • Option #3 – Bill Paying Binder

No matter which bill paying station you choose from above, make sure it’s stocked with the following:

  • Pens
  • Checks (if you are going paperless – I like to keep a box of checks on our kitchen desk)
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes
  • Filing Cabinet (this doesn’t have to be in the same area, but you do need a place to keep old bills, specifically if you’re using the paper or hybrid bill-paying systems)
  • Ingoing area (a place where you can put all of the bills that come in the mail)

Psst: wondering how long you're supposed to hold onto bills you already paid? Check out Consumer Report's guidance on papers you need to keep, and length of time. Here's my own experience that shows why the Marie Kondo paper organization might not be the best way to organize your bills.

Bill Organization Apps

Those of us who have ever wondered “How can I keep track of paying bills” will be happy to know that there are both apps to help with this, plus bill organization templates.

There are two different types of bill organization apps that you can use to help with your bill-paying system.

  1. Bill Tracker Apps: Such as EasyBillsReminder and BillsMonitor.
  2. Bill Payment Apps: You can use these to both organize AND pay your bills. One of my favorites is Rocket Money, which helps you see, at one glance, when each of your bills is due, AND actually lets you pay them through the app. One dashboard and payment system for all of your bills.

Pssst: Do you budget with your spouse? You can find my review of the best couple’s budget apps here.

Organize Bills Template

Do you want to keep track of paying bills with a written system instead of with a bill-paying app? I’ve got you covered, with free printable templates for organizing your bills.

You can use these to do things like keep track of due dates, check off each bill as you pay it throughout the month, and to write down the amounts of bills as they come into your home.

Bill Organization Charts:

What is the best way to pay monthly bills? Examples of Real-Life bill-paying Systems

We’ve talked a lot about what various bill organization systems are, and your choices. But now? I want to give you real-life examples of people’s actual bill payment and bill organization systems so that you can see what this stuff looks like, you know, out in the wild.

Example #1: Angie’s Binder System

Angie uses a binder bill paying system, and both a hybrid of online bill payment + paper bills. She has a binder set up with everything that she needs, and as each bill arrives in her mailbox, she puts them in a box on her desk.

  • How often she opens the bills: Once per week
  • How often she pays bills: the 1st and 15th of each month are bill-paying days
  • How she remembers which bills she paid: She keeps unpaid bills in the front pocket of the binder, then writes in red pen on the outside of them the date/amount she paid (plus she hole-punches the bill and puts it in that bill’s section of the binder)

Supplies in her Bill Paying Station:

  • A 3-4” binder that has pockets in the front
  • pencil pouch that holds a calculator, pen, red pen, pencil, and eraser
  • Dividers (one labeled for each bill in the house, such as “sewer”, “water”, and “mortgage”)
  • A blank calendar page for each month, where she fills in the due date of each bill and her home’s paydays

Example #2: Christine’s 100% Paper Bill Paying System

Christine uses a binder + planner system for her bill paying, which is completely paper-based. She collects each bill as they come in, and puts them in a section of her home binder. Then, she makes a note of the due date in her planner. She waits for all of her monthly bills to come in, then pays them all at one time, a few days ahead of when the first bill is due (she can do this because they are one month ahead of their budget).

Supplies in Her Bill Paying Station:

  • Homemaking Binder
  • Folders
  • Planner
  • Bank online bill pay feature
  • Monthly budget spreadsheet

Managing Monthly Bills to Correspond to Your Paydays – Can You Change Due Dates on Bills?

Let’s talk about something most people ignore: changing due dates on your bills. Because bill organization includes figuring out how to get your monthly cash flow lined up with your bill's due dates.

Sometimes? The money is just not physically there. Yet.

It's not that it won't be there, but maybe you're not getting paid for another four days, or that reimbursement you were hoping for hasn't come through (but as soon as it does, your checking account will be good to go).

But until then, it's a bit of a stress-wad because the mortgage is due on day 3 and money from your other account to CYA your checking account until that paycheck comes in takes 3-5 days to show up (ack!).

When your bills don't line up well with your paychecks, it can feel like things are completely out of control, when in reality, it's just a cash flow problem.

Ask me how I know.

Our Own Experience Changing Due Dates on Bills

We've all been there.

In fact, just this month I had something happen that made me wonder how to cut through all the time it can take to shuffle money around our various accounts.

Let me break our scenario down for you:

A freelance check in the amount of $450 that was supposed to come in the mail last month never did (turns out it got lost in the mail, so they are reissuing it). Simultaneously, Paul's one day of overtime did not show up in his paycheck, even though he completed it a month ago.

So, we were facing a too-close-for-comfort buffer of approximately $200 in checking after the automatic withdrawal of our mortgage.

Adding a little more complexity to the matter, I had been traveling to my brother's wedding and hadn't started the process of aggregating last month's biz income (which comes into three different biz accounts) into my biz checking so that I could make one income trail into our personal checking account. Each withdrawal from my two PayPal accounts takes 3-5 days (but can happen at the same time), and then another 3-5 days to get from biz checking to personal checking (so up to 10 days to get our money where we want it to go).


You can see why I started thinking about different options for money finagling (besides taking anything from our savings, as we treat that place like a black hole).  Because if there's one thing I hate, it's banking fees when the reason the money wasn't there was for logistical reasons.

Well, that and when people don't use their turn signals (another blog post, entirely).

Options for Money Finagling

There are some options in these situations, but they might not all be great ones. So, let's take a look in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

  • Changing Your Due Dates: Several credit cards and other places you owe money allow you to change your due date. This means you want to set a due date that is around a payday so that you're likely to have a good buffer in your account. In a pinch, I'm not sure how long it takes to move the date (as in, can you call that month and have it changed when you're four days away from owing the money? You'll want to make a phone call for that kind of info). Note that for many services, your due date is the date you signed up. So, Netflix, for example, only lets you “change your due date” by canceling your subscription and then resigning up on the date you want your new bills to be due.
  • Doing the Withdraw and Deposit Shuffle: This is for those of us who have multiple accounts at the same bank. For example, my biz and personal accounts are with Chase. You can cut a few days off of the electronic withdrawal time-lapse by physically going into the bank (or an atm machine), withdrawing from one account, then turning right back around and depositing it into your other account. This usually takes less time than electronic transfers.
  • Overlapping Withdrawals from Account to Account: To be honest, I've never tried this method (though I've thought about it). If you know it takes 3-5 days to get your money to one account, then 3-5 days to get it to another, you would overlap withdrawals on those two different accounts by a day or two and cross your fingers that it doesn't take the full 5 days from the first account to get to the second. I think this method partially hinges on whether or not your second bank account takes “pending” as “money is technically there” in case there is a withdrawal too early from the second into the third account.
  • Postdating Checks: One of the Consumerist's readers recently found out the hard way that banks may not have an obligation to honor a postdated check. Who knew? I rarely pay anything with a check, but in case you do, this is valuable information.

In the end, we were fine. I was able to get my income over from my biz account to our personal checking within six days, and not the full 10 that it could have taken. The mortgage came out three days later, and all was well. Even so, it's good to know that there are a few options for money finagling when trying to shuffle between accounts on a deadline.

Word of Caution about Automating Your Bill Pay

Automatic bill pay. It's awesome. And it can also lead to automatic bill creep. Let me explain.

Automation is magical. Set it up once, fuhgeddaboudit, and your life is completely supported without much management.

But automation can also lead to bills creeping up in cost without you being aware of it. And to be honest…I think companies bank on this.

Pssst: Worried you may be paying too much on  your bills, OR, not sure which subscriptions you can get rid of? This awesome company, Trim, will go through your bills FOR YOU, and find easy ways to save you money. They go through your bills, find recurring subscriptions, you get a clean list, and you tell them which ones to cancel. Easy-peasy. Not only that, but they can actually negotiate your cable bill on your behalf! What, what?!? It's free to sign up. 

Take our recent examples:

Automated Bill Creep on Two of Our Accounts

During the last round of my course, Save Beyond Your Means, I realized a bill that was way out of whack in our household: our internet/cable bill.

When we first signed on with AT&T, the cost was around $115.

Do you know what I found when I looked at our current bill? $168 staring back at me!


Turns out I was out of contract and the promotions had ended…um…three months ago (for shame).

This was a big slip-up in our household, as I'm usually quite diligent about this sort of thing. But I'm living proof that life gets busy and – once bills are automated – they can be overlooked.

And it didn't stop there. I decided to take a peek at one of the only bills we still receive by paper. Turns out we've been paying a $0.99 ringtone charge for months neither of us can figure out how we signed up for it!

The Outcome

Fortunately for us, I was able to use my ninja negotiation skills with a rep in the retention department to get the same service we were enjoying before + plus increased speed on our internet at a locked-in rate of $102 for the next 12 months.

On top of that, the rep gave me a $55 bill credit. Woohoo!

This means I brought $727 into our household over the next year (after taxes are accounted for) with just 24 minutes of my time (return on my time = $30.29/minute)! I call that time well spent.

And for the ringtone charge? A simple, five-minute online chat ensured that over the next year, we are going to save $11.88. Hey…that's a movie ticket + 1/4 of a hot dog! We'll take it.

How to Keep This from Happening to You

So how can you save yourself from this oopsy mistake?

  1. Set up a reminder alert in your calendar every six months, 3 months, or when the promotional period ends to reassess. The key here is to set this up as soon as you get the new promotion, while it's fresh on your mind. When the alarm goes off, it's time to call the company (or to check your bill).
  2. Time your phone calls and bill audits for a specific time of year so that it becomes second nature. For example, instead of spring cleaning and fall pumpkin carving, how about spring bill checkup and winter financial detox…perhaps time your insurance price checkups with your six-month dental cleanings.

Automation is awesome, and I will talk about its benefits until I'm pea-green in the face. But there's one problem with it – you might just get so trusting with the ease that you forget to look every so often. Especially, when it's combined with paperless statements. Use one of the two tips above and stop this from happening to you!

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.


Monday 16th of February 2015

The same happened to me with AT&T. I would think these companies are required to give you advance warning that your promotion expires soon ... or is that simply called good customer service.


Monday 16th of February 2015

I know, right? I asked them about that and they said that it was in our bill at some point...whoops--we get paperless statements so I don't look at those either:).


Thursday 13th of March 2014

Having structure with your spending and saving is essential for your financial well-being. Systems like these could be very beneficial in tracking your spending, saving and planning.

Natilya James

Thursday 23rd of January 2014

It is always better to set your retirement planning target. Before you choose your pension plan, you should estimate that how much money you would need to maintain your lifestyle once you are retired from your job. Also, you must try to convert at least seventy per cent of your pension funds to income.

Jack @ Enwealthen

Friday 17th of January 2014

I've heard good things about Manila, Mint, and Personal Capital, and of course Quickbooks.

I'm old school, in that I still don't trust web services (perhaps because I do Internet for a living and know all the skeletons and all the closets). Or at least not with my money. I still manage my finances on my computer, offline, with lots of encryption and other security measures in place.

Bryce @ Save and Conquer

Wednesday 8th of January 2014

I hadn't heard of Manilla before. I will give it a look. Our bill paying is already pretty easy, though, with a few on auto-pay, and others, like credit cards, that send me an email weeks before they are due.

I keep track of my investments from all accounts, as well as net worth using Full View that is a service from Fidelity Investments. So I don't really have a need for Personal Capital.