I was working on our family budget the other day and began searching out ways to organize our personal documents. Today, I thought that the best person to go to for info was already on my speed dial.
My mom-in-law is the most organized person I know. She has been a bookkeeper for a few (give or take twenty) years and really knows her stuff. So, I called her right up and asked her if she minded sharing how she handles all her papers. I had to cringe a little when I read “Do not use an IN box.” How about an IN 15 gallon Rubbermaid container?
Without further ado, Organized Gam…
I have given some thought about how I stay organized. The best advice is to take action immediately.
- Stand by the garbage can when opening the mail!! Get rid of all the junk mail.
- Make it easy. Have a filing cabinet or space that is easily accessible. If you have to go into a closet or under a bed to file, then it is just not easy!
- File things right away. Makes it seem overwhelming when it piles up. Do not use an IN basket.
- Label files the way you want to recall them. Auto insurance, utilities, life insurance, etc.
- Be more detailed if you have several banks. ex: Bank of America Auto loan, Bank of America Line of Credit, etc. I even take a magic marker and write the address, phone number and account number on the inside of the file….just in case.
- I keep copies of my charge card invoices for at least 2 to 3 years. Never know when you need to refer back to these. Ex: Broken Haan Steamer (This was aimed at me…I called the other day regarding a floor steamer that she gave me for Christmas 2 years ago. I wasn’t even done explaining what was wrong with the thing and she had the receipt in hand ready to call them.)
- Make a home improvement file. You would be surprised how much we spend every year improving our homes. Even if you don’t have the receipt, write down what you did to the home and estimate the cost if you cannot remember.
- I keep my bank deposit slips until the statement comes and I reconcile the statement. Make notations on the deposit slip if it is out of the ordinary and keep.
- If you have a pet, make a file for them. Never know when you need to show their records.
- Make a yearly tax file. Copy items as they come in….ex: if you buy or sell a home, or take money out of your IRA….make a copy of the closing statement or check stub for IRS. Easier to do it then instead of waiting to look at tax time. Drop a note in the tax file of the places you have worked so you will be looking for the W-2’s.
- I keep copies of all medical expenses and separate them into eye, dentist, doctor, prescriptions and insurance premium. I usually get the deduction at tax time. Most people do not.
- If you live in a state where you can claim your car registration, keep a copy for your tax file.
- Also, make notes for tax file of any additional income (alimony, child support) as this is taxable income and has to be accounted for.
- If you work from home you will get a deduction for a portion of the electric, phone and internet. Must keep those invoices as back up for tax return (I think at least 5 to 7 years).
- I find that if I pay the bill as soon as it comes in I won’t forget, and then to file it right away. I realize some people cannot pay bills right away, so at least write it on a calendar as a reminder to pay.
- I keep tax returns and back up documentation is kept for 7 years.
- I only keep cable, phone and utility bills for one year. You really do not have to keep them at all once they are paid, but sometimes we like to refer back.
- I keep a separate binder for retirement plans. Most plans send out a thick monthly or quarter statement so putting it in a 3-ring binder makes for easy reference.
What great information, Organized Gam! I know that I have been busy this last week getting my financial files in order. We had a lot of stacks of paper to go through since moving so much, but the piles are dwindling and I’m feeling better.
Soon I’ll talk about the budget forms I use and the Dave Ramsey program.