By: Derek Beres
I’ve never been good with paperwork. When paperless billing became available, I was the first to sign up. Keeping track of my intake and outflow of cash online makes sense to me. After all, my computer folders are detailed and organized, especially when compared to those manila folders I could never keep track of. This does not mean I’m bad at paying my bills, mind you. In fact, one of the earliest lessons drilled into me by my father -- pay your bills on time, son -- stuck with me.
But when April rolls around, I become stressed, and not because of the money I probably have to pay in taxes as a freelance contractor. It’s due to that giant folder in my office where hundreds of expense reports and receipts are haphazardly thrown during the other eleven months. That’s why I was super excited when I found out about Lemon, a new app that helps you get (and stay) financially organized. Before I get to that, however, I’d like to share my process of bill paying, since each step is an important one in the overall picture.
Step 1: Go Paperless
I know some people like to leave a paper trail. I understand this. But fortunately, most businesses are pretty good at storing detailed reports for you. Yes, your account may get hacked, but your house can also get robbed (or catch fire), so the idea that there must be one perfect system doesn’t cut it. What’s great about paying your bills and banking online is that it creates a day-by-day account of your activities in a way that would be hard to replicate on your own, save for diligently keeping a spreadsheet going on your desktop.
Step 2: Pay On Time
Bad credit is something no one wants to face up to. While I’ve never been late on a payment, I spent too many years in debt. A few years ago, I consolidated and took out a loan through a credit union, and now I’m less than a year from being debt-free for the first time since college. The biggest lesson I learned was to destroy my credit cards. Now I only have a debit card and an American Express card that I’m required to pay in full every month. There’s something quite liberating about not seeing interest collect on an item you purchased five years ago. Don’t spend more than you earn, if at all possible (I know some situations, such as emergency healthcare, are more important). Before you purchase something on credit, ask yourself 1) Do I really need this now? and 2) If the answer is yes, will I have the money to cover this in the near future? Whatever your answer, pay the bill on time to avoid penalties – and added stress.
Step 3: Find a Financial App You Like
There are plenty of apps that can help you get organized financially, including Money, Squirrel and Corona. My favorite is Lemon (available for iPhone and Android), which has helped me get rid of that folder of bills and receipts. It’s probably the simplest tool yet: simply snap a picture of your receipt and be done with it. With the easy labeling process, Lemon organizes your receipts, simultaneously acting as a money manager. In addition, it also stores your credit card numbers in case you lose or forget your wallet. You can pay a monthly fee of $9.99 for more detailed organization. But as I said, I’m not particularly thrilled at the prospect of bookkeeping as it is. For the moment, the wonderful free version is enough for me.
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is Completely You’s Getting Unstuck blogger. A journalist, yoga instructor and DJ/music producer, he has written for such publications as Departures and The Huffington Post. He teaches yoga at Equinox Fitness and Yogis Anonymous, and is one-half of the music production team EarthRise SoundSystem. For more info, visit DerekBeres.com.
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