How to create a bill checklist

A bill checklist is a single place, either written on paper or stored in an app, that allows you to see your upcoming bills so you can plan ahead and never miss a payment. We talked about why you need one in a previous post. So how do you make one? No matter the format, there are four things every bill checklist needs, so look for these features if searching for an app or be sure to add them if you are making a list on paper or in a spreadsheet:

  1. A visual view of all upcoming bills
    Any good app or list should allow you to list all of your bills in the order they are due. An app or a spreadsheet has an advantage here, because they can usually be sorted to show the next bill due at the top of the list. Other things to look for in an app include a visual calendar that shows your upcoming bills visually.If you are making a paper list, it may be easier to list your bills in alphabetical order, so you can always find them easily (the next due bill will change as you pay them, and you can’t keep the most recent one at the top).
  2. How much is due for each bill
    If you are going to plan ahead, it’s nice to know how much is due for each bill so you can calculate how much money you have available for spending. An app should allow you to enter how much is due, and ideally allow you to note if the amount varies month-to-month as well (for example, with a utility bill).Ideally, your app or spreadsheet should allow you to total how much is due for the current month automatically, again, so you can calculate how much free spending money remains.
  3. When or how often the bill repeats
    While many bills repeat monthly, not all do—and it’s the ones that don’t repeat regularly that are most likely to be forgotten. For example, auto insurance is sometimes paid twice a year—an interval that makes it easy to forget. Make sure the app you use allows you to note how often the bill repeats, with flexible options so that you can enter unusual repeat intervals.If you are writing your bills on a list, a good approach is to include a column for each month, and black out the months where a bill is not due (see a good sample list here). So for a normal monthly bill, you would leave every column open. For a bill that repeats in January and June, black out all the other months.One last sub-point here—if you have some bills that are auto-paid, make sure to have a spot on your list where you can note if the bill is paid automatically or not. You still want to track automatically paid bills so you can factor them in when calculating your remaining budget, but you obviously don’t need to worry about making payments.
  4. A way to record payments you make
    Finally, your bill app or list should include a way to record the payments you make. With an app or spreadsheet, make sure there is a confirmation or notes field, so you can store confirmation numbers if paying online, or other details like the actual date the check was mailed and the amount paid.For a printed list, a space for a checkmark to show that you’ve paid the bill for the month is sufficient. You can write confirmation numbers or related notes on the bill itself.

App Recommendations

Because they are more flexible, for most people, we recommend you use an app instead of a spreadsheet or printed list to keep track of your bills.

Depending on the platform you use, there are a number of options available. Chronicle, developed in conjunction with the writers of this blog, is our recommendation for Mac and iPhone users. It includes everything we’ve talked about: it shows a list and calendar of upcoming bills, tracks repeat intervals, amounts due, and many other details. It allows you to record your payments with  confirmation numbers and other details, and gives you statistics about your bills. It easily differentiates between bills that are auto-paid and those that are not, and it allows you to note if bills have variable amounts due. It is available on both Mac and iOS, and it keeps your bills in sync with iCloud.

If you use an Android device, one decent app we have found is called Bills Reminder, though it doesn’t quite offer up the simplicity of Chronicle, it mostly does the job.

Steer clear of Billminder on both iOS and Android—while it was once a very popular app, it hasn’t been updated in years, and appears to have been abandoned by the developer. Recent reviews indicate significant bugs with current versions of Android and iOS.

Questions about how to set up your bill checklist? Know of another good app? Leave a comment below.

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