Let’s continue our series on organizing your household and financial records. Yesterday, we examined the benefits you’ll receive from adding a little organization to your paperwork life. Motivating yourself to get started is the most important step. Set aside an uninterrupted block of time and pull out all the records and papers you have stored all over the house, car and office. You will probably discover that many of the papers you have been keeping are unnecessary. Be careful to shred or tear up any unneeded papers such as outdated credit cards statements, paperwork from former health insurance or other benefit providers, vehicle records from automobiles that you have not had in several years, etc.
Understand that getting organized and then successfully managing your records means deciding on three essential factors: a person willing to be responsible, a routine for filing and attending to records, and a specific place to keep records.
The person If you live with another adult (spouse, parent, etc.), then you may share the responsibility of recordkeeping. Even if you are the only one who keeps up with the paperwork and records, it is critical that the other person know where the records are and how they are organized. Any adults living alone should keep a trusted friend or relative informed about their records. Once a year, initiate a conversation about any updates or changes to the records, their location, or any other pertinent information.
The routine Does this routine sound familiar? Let mail pile up until the end of the week, then sort out the bills from the other stuff. Don’t throw away the other pile of stuff because you intend to go through it later. Organize your big piles into smaller piles once a month or so. Finally throw some things away. Put the other important paperwork into a folder marked “File later” since you intend to spend one full day just filing your paperwork.
Hopefully you are not that bad! Even if you are a little disorganized, setting up a paperwork routine will help prevent the loss of records and make locating needed information a lot easier. Here are some ideas:
- Every day, open and sort the mail. Keep a trash can in front of you and immediately discard the junk. Use a letter holder or file folder to hold unpaid bills and other papers that need filing or additional action. The last part of this series will include some specific file names and suggestions.
- Arrange your bills so you pay them about the same time each month. When possible set up online billing through your bank or other financial institution. This method is actually very secure and you will save time and energy. Plus you’ll save the 45 cents on postage!
- Document and file your receipts every week, especially if you have a small or home-based business. Be sure to write down pertinent business information on each receipt.
At least once a month, review any records that remain unfiled or unattended to. Make sure your important papers are properly updated and filed. The most efficient way is to set aside an uninterrupted time at the end of each month to spend a few hours keeping everything in order.