Keeping your bills organized, will not only save you a great amount of headache, but it can also save you money by helping you avoid those steep late penalties that credit card and utility companies love to charge. A proper bill organizing system can also maximize your cash flow by spreading out your bills instead of paying them all at once. In this blog post, I'll show you how to leverage the power of Evernote to get your bills done efficiently and on time.
Essential Tools of Your Evernote Bill System
Before we get into the "how-to's," there are a couple of essential pieces that you'll need to setup first. You'll need the following:
- Evernote. You can start with a free subscription to Evernote to get your feet wet while you're getting set up, but eventually you'll see the value in upgrading to the premium subscription ($5/month) because it unlocks greater document searchability as well as a host of other great premium features.
- Scanner and/or smart phone. You'll use these devices to digitize your incoming paper-based bills. You'll want to select a scanner that provides the quickest route for your paper bills to get digitized. That means that if you process your bills at home, then having a sheet-fed scanner conveniently located at home would be ideal, but if you're the type that grabs incoming mail on your way out the door, then you'll need a portable scanner or make use of your smart phone to get those documents processed on the go. If you choose to use your smart phone as part of your Evernote system, then you'll have to download the free Evernote app (available for both iPhone and Android).
- Electronic bill pay through your bank (optional). Although this is not an essential component to making your Evernote bill system work, I've found that having the ability to pay your bills from anywhere in the world is an invaluable service. And if bill pay comes free with your banking account, then why spend money and time with stamps and snail mail?
Now that you have all the essential tools for your Evernote bill system, you're going to want to set up your Evernote so that you can start processing incoming bills. Let me just warn you that there are a dozen ways to organize your bills within Evernote (i.e. Evernote tickler system) and I'm going to show you a very simple way to maintain an organized system and workflow process, but you're by no means limited to my system. Once you understand how the system works, feel free to customize it and make it your own.
First, you're going to need to create a two-notebook stack within Evernote. You can title the stack as "Bills." The first notebook in the stack will be titled, "To Pay." This notebook will house all the incoming bills that have yet to be paid. The second notebook in the stack will be titled, "Paid." This notebook will serve as an archive for all the bills that you have already paid.
Capturing Your Bills
It's inevitable that you're going to be getting bills in different formats, mainly via paper and email, so the trick is how to capture all your incoming bills into one format that you can process using Evernote.
Bills sent by email. These are the easiest to deal with. Evernote provides you with a special email address that you can use to forward your emails to your Evernote account. To find out what your special Evernote email address is, just click on your "usage" meter on the top right side of your Evernote software. When you come across a bill that has been emailed to you, you'll want to make sure that you send those bills to your "To Pay" notebook so they don't get lost. You can do this from within the email itself by simply adding the code "@to pay" anywhere within the subject line of the email. Adding the "@" symbol within the subject line followed by the name of a specific notebook allows you to send your emails to a specific Evernote notebook. While you're doing this, you might as well clean up the subject line of that email with the specific name of that bill since Evernote will use that subject line as the content for its title. Sometimes, you'll get emails with PDF attachments of bills, but those can be handled in exactly the same way since Evernote leaves attachments intact with the email itself.
Bills sent by snail mail. The obvious first step in handling your paper bills is to get them digitized and into your Evernote. Achieve this either by using a scanner or your smart phone. Once you digitize your paper bill, then make sure it goes in your "To Pay" notebook for safe-keeping.
Evernote is a wonderful product that you can not only capture bills, but Evernote can capture any type of information and make it searchable.
Processing and Reviewing Your Bills
So now that you've captured all your incoming bills, now's the time where you go into your "To Pay" notebook within Evernote and fix any titles that need clarification as to what they are. It's also the time to specify when a bill needs to be paid. Some people do this by tagging bills with the month and the day, but I've found an easier hack that accomplishes this better, utilizing the "created date" function. If you pull up a note from within Evernote and look on the left-hand side, you'll see that you have the ability to modify the created date of that particular note. Simply change this date to the particular day that you want to remind yourself to pay that bill and that will enable you to sort your unpaid bills by upcoming date.
When you're performing your daily review, get into a habit of reviewing your list of unpaid bills as part of that review process. When it comes time to actually pay a bill, use your electronic bill pay service provided by your bank to issue a check to the vendor. Record the date paid and any notes that you feel are necessary within Evernote and then drag that bill out of the "To Pay" notebook and into the "Paid" notebook. There it will be archived indefinitely and easy to retrieve for later.
By using the Evernote bill system, you'll save yourself a ton of headaches; increase your productivity and save yourself money by avoiding those pesky late charges!