Whether you recently separated or your spouse has become unable to take care of the bills, taking charge of your family’s finances can be overwhelming at first.
You may feel like you have no clue where to begin.
Here is your roadmap.
1. Look at the Big Picture.
After losing your partner’s income, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If that sounds familiar, then you already know that you’ll have to pay bills throughout the month, as your paychecks are deposited. It also means you have to be careful about when you pay certain bills, because paying too soon might mean that you bounce a check.
This Monthly Balance Worksheet will help you keep tabs on your income and expenses. You can print it and write down your paychecks and bills or you can use it as a worksheet in Excel or on Google Drive. It’s as simple or advanced as you want to make it.
2. Don’t Ignore the Bills.
Although it’s tempting, don’t put those incoming bills into a “to do later” pile. Before you know it, they’ll build up and you might miss some due dates. Missing due dates can cost you — in late payment fees or interest rates or get you into a deep hole.
Instead, be sure to open the bills, look at what’s owed and the due date.
3. Keep Track of Your Expenses.
After you open your bills (as soon as they arrive — no excuses!), write them down in one place. You can do this any number of ways, but if you need a solution yesterday, then print this Monthly Balance Sheet and write down the bill, the amount, and the due date. Or, you could try writing the bill in your calendar: Pick a date a few days before it’s due, so you don’t miss the due date.
4. Understand your Paycheck.
Even if you know how much you make annually, it’s important to know how much you “take home” with each paycheck. Otherwise known as “net income,” your take home pay is how much you receive after your employer takes out taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance, retirement, and other benefits.
Do you know how often you get paid? Do you get a paycheck every other week or just twice a month? If you get your paycheck on the same day of the week each month, then you likely are paid every other week (or “bi-weekly”). If you get your paycheck on the same date of the month, then you’re probably getting paid twice a month. Unless, of course, you’re paid once a month.
Write down how much take home you receive and the date you expect to receive it. If you don’t have Direct Deposit, add a few days to account for the time it takes your bank to get the check to clear.
5. Pay Bills Weekly.
Now that you have a good idea of your expenses and income throughout the month, make a date with yourself to pick up your pile of bills each week and either schedule payments online or write out the checks. If you have a one-month cash cushion in your bank account, you might even be able to pay bills only twice a month.