Keeping Track of Monthly Bills and Staying Organized

18 Replies

Curious what everyone does to keep track of all utility accounts and monthly bills for your properties. We have 7 units across 3 properties right now and varying accounts for each one - Gas, Electric, Water, Trash, Sewage. Some utilities are split others are not depending on the property. We pay everything online, but are looking for a better way, or a system to stay organized with monthly bills and accounts. It's not bad at the moment, but may be challenging when trying to scale. Thanks in advance for any advice. 

Auto pay with a credit card to get the points. Water, electric, and gas are likely online accounts that you can print YE statements for tax purposes. If trash is Waste Management they may have the same. If not, I pay my trash yearly instead of monthly to save on paperwork and hassle.

Learn Quickbooks and develop the discipline to enter your expenses each day. We never use cash for the business. Routine bills are payed on-line and entered into QB as they are paid; the LLC's debit card is used for rehab expenses. Quickbooks is easy to use with a video tutor purchased from Amazon.

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@Matt Faix I found out when you get to a bigger scale that's when a PM can really help you out. My bills all go to the Pm who pays them and then logs them on rentech or buildium or some similar website. My book keeper can log into those websites and get owner draw info, bill info etc. in the absence of a book keeper I was able to print out a year ending statement. I sent this to my CPA for tax purposes. It's important to have a Good pm with a good book keeper for this method to work but it save me countless Hours every year at tax time. An added bonus is I can run quarterly or yearly checks on each property to see how it's performing. RR

I have a spreadsheet that is organized like this.  I track everything in QuickBooks after the fact, but to help me remember which bills need to be paid, I have this:

                      Prop 1       Prop 2      Prop 3     Prop 4

Mortgage      auto          auto           11/1/17   11/1/17

HOA 11/1/17 11/1/17 auto auto

Xcel                 Pd 10/5/17   10/31/17   11/4/17   11/10/17

Water              NA                 NA        auto         NA

So I have every type of expense that any of my properties have listed down the left side.

NA then means that the particular expense is not applicable to the property. That is, either the tenants are paying it or it's part of the HOA or whatever. That way I don't panic at any point and say "OH! Did I pay the Water for Prop 2? I look at my spreadsheet and say "not responsible for that" and move on.

Auto means I have it set up on auto deduct - again, no action to take on my part.

A date means that's when the next bill is due for that item.  After I pay the bill, I will then replace the date with Pd 10/5/17 to let me know I paid it.  Then when the next bill comes in, I will switch the Pd notation to when the next payment is due.

I have 12 properties, so I am usually updating this and my QuickBooks file at least once per week.

I pay all my recursive bills (such as utilities) on the same day each month, for example, 10th, so that I don't forget to pay. And for contractors, we pay right after we get the invoice. We use bank transfer, credit card and check for all payments, do not use cash, all online.

Most of by utility bills are not on auto-pay, because we were afraid that if a tenant owes utility payment and the utility company will add them to our general bills if they could not collect it. 

And at end of each month, I do my accounting on Quickbooks Online, Quickbooks can download all your bank transactions into the system, I categorize the expense by different accounts, utility, plumbing, and electricity, HVAC, windows, etc. And I use class to represent each building, so that I can get income and expense reports by building, by month, by accounts (expense type). I can also generate rent roll each month from Quickbooks and find rent owing very easily.

Also one thing I really like, at end of each year, I can analyze the vacancy rate for my buildings, and the rent we lose on vacant units.

Hope it helps.



Originally posted by @Matt Faix :

Curious what everyone does to keep track of all utility accounts and monthly bills for your properties. We have 7 units across 3 properties right now and varying accounts for each one - Gas, Electric, Water, Trash, Sewage. Some utilities are split others are not depending on the property. We pay everything online, but are looking for a better way, or a system to stay organized with monthly bills and accounts. It's not bad at the moment, but may be challenging when trying to scale. Thanks in advance for any advice. 

Have you looked into bill.com?  Their services looks like it might address your immediate needs.  

That service also integrates with Quickbooks Online.  I'm completely biased, but my thinking is that if you're going to go to all the trouble of tracking your expenses, you might as well just set up accounting software.  The additional data entry will be pretty minimal and you'll get so much helpful reporting literally with the click of a button. 

For my 25 units, I use a combo of Quicken Home & Business and a spreadsheet.  Quicken tracks my expenses and I track income in the spreadsheet.  With Quicken, I can setup bill reminders, download my bank and credit card transactions and easily categorize them using schedule e categories.  I use tags to tie each transaction to a particular property.   This is relatively cheap and easy way to track income and expenses.  I have tested several property management software packages and they all lack the ability to download banking/credit card transactions to balance your accounts.  Happy to provide more details.

p.s.  don't waste your time with Quicken Rental Property Manager, it is horrible.

@Matt Faix
I have a similar portfolio and we just moved everything from spreadsheets over to Quickbooks and a better PM software. It's s huge time saver. Well worth the small monthly costs.

One of the downfalls I see of having a small portfolio but large enough where it is starting to become a time suck (5-10 doors) is that the costs of using Buildium or a PM software geared for large portfolios is not cost effective for a small investor. However, a PM software is still needed if you self manage. The problem is the more inexpensive PM tools are not very good for all biz expenses.

Therefore, I moved to Quickbooks and use a PM tool to collect rent and other PM activities. It is sometimes a double entry but is much more efficient than using a spreadsheet (I am very excel savvy so that is a lot said by me).

Hope this helps

There are a lot of smaller rental property management software options out there that start at $20 a month.  The majority of landlords on our system have 25-50 units.  Ditto for PM companies.  

If you're planning to scale, definitely get QuickBooks or Xero, or some type of online accounting software that generated your reports for review every month.

I know in Bridgeport, Connecticut the sewer accounts don't take auto-pay so it can be a time-consuming process.  Aquarion water does online payments so that can be scheduled.

If you have the recurring bills set up in QuickBooks you should just create step by step systems of instructions in Evernote or other software.  Eventually, hand those instructions over to a bookkeeper once you have more units.

Document, document, document!

Thanks for all of the great feedback! We do use Quickbooks currently, but it sounds like we could be using it better. We also pay our bills once per week online and reconcile Quickbooks about once per month. 

For those of you that mentioned using Quickbooks - Do you enter the bill and then pay it through QB or is this done manually outside of Quickbooks. Our bill pay process goes something like this....

  • Get bills, taxes, and invoices through the mail/email
  • Sort by due date
  • Validate the bill - ie Determine which property/apartment it's for, verify it's a reasonable amount, verify it's a bill that WE should be paying rather than a tenant. This gets especially tricky when we are between tenants and utilities transfer back to us temporarily.  
  • Log into bank website once/week and pay everything that's coming due.
  • Log into Quickbooks and record the transactions once/week. Note: Our QB is not tied into our bank account at the recommendation of our accountant. They claim less risk, but it also seems to create more hassle. 
  • Reconcile Quickbooks once/month.  

Is there a better way to log and track these entirely through Quickbooks? 

@Shaun Palmer I agree, we've looked at Buildium and other PM software, and they seem to be too much for us right now. I think part of our problem is managing the inflow of mail/invoices and keeping it organized prior to getting it entered into QB as mentioned above.

@Linda Weygant  That spreadsheet sounds like it helps a lot with staying organized upfront. I imagine it's a quick way to view and track all properties/bills at once, who's responsible, and when they need paid. We'll have to give that a try. 

Mint aggregates all of your purchases and labels categories. We use this for tracking and you can export to Quickbooks or excel.

Matt, I don't use QB, but I do have it lol

The process of entering into the system is fine. 

Who is doing all the entries into the system? Who is sorting the mail?


Is there a better way to log and track these entirely through Quickbooks? 

Matt, it sounds like you've got a well thought out system.  There's a couple of things I think you could tweak to save some time:

  • Set up recurring bills in QB for all of your predictable/recurring expenses.  
  • Validate your bills first.
  • On your weekly bill-pay day:
    •  Login to QB
    • Verify your recurring bills match auto-generated record in QB
    • Enter your validated non-recurring bills
    • Go to the Expenses screen and sort by due date.    
    • Mark the payments you will make for the week. 
    • Login to your bank and submit the actual payments.

 QB does have integrated online bill pay, which would eliminate the need to login to your bank, which could be a fantastic time-saver.  And QB does support two-step login authentication which is the security standard these days for online accounts.  However, I completely respect not if the risk of connecting your bank accounts does not outweigh the benefits integration. 

I'm not sure I can add much to this discussion, but what works for us is one day set aside for bill pay. Make sure to monitor each bill. If you auto pay a utility bill you might miss signs of a leak. Then about a week later I set aside an hour for bank reconciliation. I don't like to automate this because I think its important to monitor and recognize on a monthly basis where your money is going. I do keep a couple cheat sheets up hanging on my office walls to remind what properties have utilities included and such.   

@Matt Faix , we are a similar size, having 6 units across 3 properties. We do everything in a single Excel spreadsheet.

The columns are:

date   description   house   vendor   cost    mileage

Where house indicates which property it is.

Mileage is any associated mileage for an item. If it's a showing day at one property, there will be associated mileage but nothing in the other columns

We pay the bills as they arrive, and enter any costs in the spreadsheet the same day as they are incurred.

Here's an example of a couple of lines from this year's expense sheet.

At the end of year, we just have to sort by property and categorize.  Very simple.

date        description              house     vendor                 cost           mileage

1/11/17   window well cover   prop1    Menards   15.81                  8.8
1/20/17   gas bill-
  prop2    Gas & Electric   128.01  
1/20/17   electric bill-
  prop2     Gas & Electric   125.01  
1/20/17   basement drain   prop1    Rite-Now Rooter   126.00  
1/22/17   1 trip   prop1                                              20
1/26/17    water bill- unit 1   prop1     Muni Svcs   46.71  
1/26/17   water bill- unit 2   prop1     Muni Svcs   47.60  
1/27/17   electrician   prop3     Joe's Electric   83.07  
1/28/17   property tax   prop1      2306.03  






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