How do you organize and maintain places and systems for mail, receipts, and paper work?
By westdebr from Gaithersburg, MD
My husband had me follow his procedure when I worked for him and we've carried it through after his retirement. He has 3 baskets on his desk top. They're labeled To Be Paid, To Be Filed, and For Review. The incoming mail goes in the For Review basket until he can look at it. The use of the others is clear.
I file all papers in a metal filing cabinet and have designed my filing system in a way that works for us. I suppose each family would be different. We have a place in a drawer for medical, credit cards, utilities, insurance, taxes, rental expenses, farm expenses, on and on.
When we have a receipt for a credit card purchase it goes in the TO BE PAID basket until the bill comes in and then we match receipts with bills and staple all of them to that bill.
Staying on top of the filing is the thing I dread most in life (not sure why...) but doing this makes our lives soooo much easier at tax time..
File cabinet, files, labeled 'Taxes', 'Bank Statements', 'Owners' Manuals', and so on. Hang in there, you need a file cabinet. Try not to let papers drip from your fingers until they land where they REALLY belong.
Since traveling with my husband we needed a compact way to keep financial stuff together. I use a 3 ring binder - I have clear separators in there I store a 2009 calender. I have a pencil holder designed for a 3 ring binder where I keep pen, white out, & hold puncher. I have sections separated where I staple receipts to a plain piece of paper marked with the month(motel, food, warranty). In my calendar I have marked expenses by day, birthdays and such. I staple each of my husbands check stubs in the appropriate month. Each month I wrote in how much was spent for each tax deductible item. This method made doing my taxes really easy. I just took all 2008 out used brads to hold all together and transferred to paper folder marked 2008.
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I have bags of papers sitting around the house because it is tax time. I haven't been good about organizing. I want to start out this year right. How can I keep my mail, bills, paid bills and canceled checks organized, or where can I find out what I need to keep and how to organize this stuff?
Every year I get one of those brown cardboard accordion folders with about 12 slots in it. The front one is for current bills, statements, etc. and also keeps my stamps, some envelopes and deposit slips handy. The rest are labeled: Credit Cards, Utilities, Receipts for Purchases, Bank Statements, House, Cars, Insurance-401K-IRA, Contributions, Medical-Dental-Rx, and Pets. Everything that comes in is put in its proper file so it doesn't pile up. It is so much easier to keep it up as it comes in than to tackle a big paper pile once a month or so.
Every week when I sit down to make a deposit and pay bills I put the "stubs" in the correct place. I also keep my tax returns in there after I file them. The organizer stays in my closet out of sight until I need it. When the year is over and taxes are filed, I put a huge rubber band around it and it goes to the shed. For major purchases (especially warranty information and instructions) I keep a large 3-ring binder with clear plastic sheet protectors. I can attach the receipt to the warranty/instructions and slip it into the sheet protector so I can see it at a glance. I have sold items at my yard sales that I still had the instructions on and I'm sure I made more money on the sale because of that. (I think this runs in my family, my Mom gave me a couch/chair/ottoman set last year and she still had the receipt and warranty on it, from 1989!)
If it makes you feel any better - with all my great tips on organizing I still have A LOT of clutter around the house: recipes torn from magazines, craft ideas and patterns, photographs, magazines I need to read, books to go back to the library, my husband's notes scribbled at the computer and left there, etc. But at least I know that the important stuff regarding our money, bills, and taxes are in order. I hope this helps! - Ginger Whaley (01/09/2002)
My idea is not for bill, tax papers, etc. but for your kids' school papers. When my oldest (now in 2nd grade) was in Kindergarten I started out saving all papers. Into the first grade I realized that was not possible or practical, but I still wanted to save some. Now I have another son in Kindergarten and one going to preschool next fall (not to mention Sunday school papers/projects). I have purchased a "hanging file folder box" for each child. The ones I found are made of plastic with covers. I have one per child with folders enough for each grade, plus preschool and Sunday school, and another folder for newspaper clippings, and another for sports events. Someday when I want to scrapbook some of this I'll have it all organized by grade, etc. Have fun. - Marsha in North Dakota (01/10/2002)
I run a home daycare, so every month I put an envelope on the side of the fridge, and every time I get a receipt for anything I put it in the envelope. At the end of each month I go and total all the bills into categories; Such as grocery, utilities, garbage etc. Then I record it on to my computer into the same categories. At the end of the year I can go and total all the bills for a certain category. It keeps me organized. (01/15/2002)
This takes up a little space, but it works really well. I just bought a 6 pack of black stackable dividers (organizer trays) at Office Depot for less than $7. You can have a tray for things to file, things to do, receipts, anything. Even if it is just things that need to be filed, you can separate them using the trays. (02/20/2002)
I bought several 3-ring binders of different sizes and added dividers and labels. I use them instead of files. I hole punch any bills, insurance forms, warranty information, and other papers that I need to keep. At the end of the year I pack the papers I need to hold onto into a box labeled with that year on it and separate each section with bright colored paper. After a few years I toss the whole box. For receipts I keep a small decorated box next to where I put my purse. Each day I take the receipts from my purse and put it into the box until the end of the month. When I sit with my bank statement I throw out the ones I don't need. Receipts that can be used for taxes get taped onto a piece of paper in a binder labeled "Taxes". (04/17/2002)
I use 3-ring binders but instead of punching holes on the documents, I bought plastic covers so I don't punch out any info. (08/09/2005)