I paid my bills this month. I plan on doing it again next month. And the month after.
They say nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. I would add monthly bills. Even if you’re not eyeballs deep in credit card and student loan debt, there’s still the electricity and phone and garbage and rent/mortgage and…
I didn’t used to be the one in the house that paid the bills. At least not most of them. My ex was and that was because, as he told me, he made the money so he would pay the bills. He had a background in banking and finance and, after being together for years and years and years, yeah okay.
I’ve written about it before, how I so easily gave over the reigns of our finances. I don’t beat myself up for it any longer. It was the natural thing to do. I was smart enough and astute enough to have done it myself but, in a marriage, you try to find ways to balance the responsibilities, right? I stayed home with the kids and made a modest income with some side hustling or self employment from which I paid a small portion of our household expenses. He was the one that got a “real” paycheck, so he paid most of the bills from that.
And, again, as I’ve written before, when we split, I suddenly took on paying all those bills on my own. By that time, we were mostly current on our bills. Mostly. And it’s not like I had never been in charge of my own finances before but, damn, it took me awhile to figure out a system that worked for me for keeping track of what was due, when it was due, whether it had been paid, etc. But, I come from an office administration background, so I persisted.
That all began years ago, but today I paid the balance of this month’s bills and, once again, a peace washed over me. It does every month about this time. And if you don’t feel that every month, girl, you need to find your way there.
What worked for me is to make a list of all of my bills, their minimum monthly payment amounts, and when they are due. When I started this, I just wrote them on a piece of notebook paper and, shhhh, that’s still what I do. It works for me and that’s the most important part. And, for me, I don’t write down things like gas or groceries on this list because all I really needed when I started this was to make sure my utilities and such were paid each month. Things like gas and groceries are fluctuating expenses to some degree and this system of mine was/is more about the routine, recurring expenses.
So, my bills are written down on a piece of notebook paper, and each month I make a new list and file the old one to the back of the stack of papers. I keep it all in a file folder and that has pretty much become my financial bible over the years. When I pay a bill, I notate that on my list, and it’s a great feeling to check things off my list.
Back to today when I paid the balance of the monthly bills…I took a moment to look at all the lists from months and years past and I had to smile. My bills are all paid on time. Again. I even have paid forward on some of them so I have credits. Like, I didn’t even have to pay my garbage bill this month because I’ve paid a little bit extra each month for the past few months and I currently have a $3 credit. And I’ve been paying a bit extra on my mortgage, too. AND, I’ve been able to put (and keep) money in my savings account each month. For a person that deals with financial insecurity as one of their biggest demons, this is huge. HUGE!
Look, I’m not rolling in dough. Not by a long shot. I’m not planning trips to Europe or dropping hundreds on online shopping. Hell, I’m not even dropping it at Walmart. I’ve still got significant debt in some areas of my life that I’m continuing to pay off. The point, though, is that I’m doing it, and so can you. It’s hard to get started when you feel like your in a pit of debt and you don’t have enough income, but there are ways to make it work. You have to want to make it work, though. Sometimes that means sacrificing things you may not want to sacrifice, but if you want the peace of being able to pay your bills each month without dissolving into a puddle of anxiety, you have to choose.
And paying more than the minimum or paying ahead or putting money in savings doesn’t have to mean paying an extra $50+ on a bill or putting $500+ into savings. Seriously, do what you can! $5 extra on a bill each month adds up. $20 into savings each month adds up. The more important thing is creating that habit. Because, when the habit is there, then when you have more, you can, and most likely will, do more.
I paid all my bills this month. I plan on doing it again next month. And the month after. At 50 I didn’t think I’d be so proud of this, but I am and I’m going to own it. Not bad for a person who, just yesterday, was writing about feeling her deep insecurity about money.