5 Ways to Organize and Stay on Top of Your Finances in 2011

If 2011 is going to be the year you get ahead financially, you need a plan to stay organized and on top of your bills and cash flow. Missing bill payments, spending without a budget and not monitoring your bank accounts can end up costing you in the long run, and will make it harder to keep your financial house in order. Getting your bills and cash flow organized is essential for staying on top of your finances in 2011m and these activities can also help you budget better all year long.

Use these five tips to stay organized and on top of your finances in 2011:

  1. Create a budget blueprint. You can use financial software to make a budget, or just create your own using your favorite spreadsheet software. The goal is to create a basic outline of your cash flow – a comprehensive list of your monthly fixed and variable expenses, all of your income sources, and any big purchases you expect to make within the next six to twelve months. Use this blueprint as a guide and reference it regularly (see #2) to keep your finances organized.
  2. Review and revise your budget at least twice per month. Keep a close eye on your expenses and make sure all of your bills are paid on time by reviewing your budget or cash flow statement at least twice per month. Make sure you write down confirmation numbers of bills you paid online so that you can correct any mistakes easily.
  3. Pay your bills on a schedule. If you can’t pay bills as soon as you receive them, at least have a plan to pay them on a specific date – well before the due date. One of the easiest ways to organize and stay on top of your finances in 2011 is by creating a bill payment schedule or calendar. Keep this calendar or schedule in a visible place so that you never miss a bill payment again.
  4. Create a monthly checklist of luxury or extra expenses. Are you planning on purchasing a big-ticket item this month? Are you looking to splurge on something for a special occasion? Create a list of these “upcoming” expenses so that you can add them to your budget and keep track of your expenditures. Forecasting your expense in this way can help you better organize your finances and may also prevent you from overspending.
  5. Open at least one checking account at a local bank. Even if you do most of your banking online, stay organized and don’t worry about check cashing by having an account at a local bank. Open a checking account at a local bank so that you can get an ATM fee-free debit card, and also cash your checks without having to pay a fee. Make sure you understand what your limitations are with this account and that you understand the minimum balance you have to maintain in order to avoid fees.