Every week we get paid, and our paycheck is deposited into our primary checking account: Petty Cash. From this account we transfer individual amounts needed to fulfill recurring payments and checks into our Bills account. For example, if I know my on of our bills, lets say our Energy bill, is $200 this month, I transfer $200 from my Petty Cash account into our Bills account and the Gas/Electric company deducts the amount from there.
Why We Transfer Individual Amounts
I've found that it's a lot easier to track where your money goes if you transfer individual bill amounts instead of just one lump sum for all the bills you need to cover. For example, knowing my Energy bill is $200 and my Car Payment is $300, I would not transfer $500 because looking at a $500 transfer on a bank statement doesn't give me a clue as to what this money is for. In contrast, a transfer of a familiar amount on your bank statement (such as $300 for a car payment every month) immediately lets to know why that money was transferred and where it's going.
This also helps when the funds get withdrawn by the biller. Using my Energy bill example again, if you put $200 into the Bills account you expect to see a $200 deduction at some point in the future. Money in..., then money out. Makes your statements look much less foreign as you can identify each transaction just by recognizing the amount.
Also, the fact that you can add Memos to your transfers (at least, at my bank you can) give you a really good idea of where you money is going or where it went.
Why We Have A Separate Account For BillsCall me "New Age", but I think checks are just so "Old School". I can't tell you how annoyed I used to get when people/businesses took months to cash/deposit a check I sent them. Especially when you have multiple checks out there waiting to be deposited, it makes it really difficult to know how much money you actually have in your account. Of course, if I actually had a check book (I don't, all my checks are sent via my bank's Bill Pay) I could do that balancing thing my Mom used to do, but I never got into that. It's 2011 for goodness sake... pencil and paper, really?!
Anyway, when you have a separate account that is JUST for the checks you wrote or the automatic withdrawals from billers, whatever you have left in the OTHER account (ours is called Petty Cash) is the money you really have to spend on non-bill things (like groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.) or adding to your debt snowball. AND you are never deceived into thinking you have more money at your disposal than you really do; once you transfer the money to your Bills account, consider it gone. Lastly, this also protects you from buying non-bill things (like groceries or gas) with the money you intended to use to pay bills.
Now when you look at your Petty Cash account and you see it's nearing $0, you know you're really running out of money. In the same situation, but with a joint Bills + Petty Cash account, you could be nearing $0 of your spendable money, but the account may have still have $1000; only problem is, you have to remember you can't spend that money because you either wrote checks for that amount or your billers will be withdrawing some of that.
Having a separate accounts for Bill Payments and Checks has worked for me for a long time (about 8 years) but I'm wondering what other methods people use to keep track of money for Checks & Auto-Withdrawn Bills, and money for your debt snowball or other non-bill items.
Am I making this too complicated? Do you use the same method we do, or do you have your own?