3 Things to Consider When Organizing Your Finances
Is your financial paperwork a jumbled mess? If you answered "yes," you're certainly not alone. The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to better organize your bank statements, receipts and even your bookkeeping-related paraphernalia. Continue reading to learn more. The task is probably easier than you think.
Think about Going Electronic
If you haven't already done so, one of the first things to do on your quest to get organized: consider going electronic. You can start with one work stream - either online bill pay; or, if you prefer paper copies, then start with getting your financial statements online. Once you perform the initial set-up and get the hang of it, it's so much faster than organizing the "old-fashioned" way. Another great perk is the fact that organizing your financial records electronically takes up a lot less space. You can create a digital filing system to keep and store those statements online instead of in piles.
The vast majority of banks, credit card companies, utility providers and other types of businesses already give consumers the option to receive their statements and bills electronically. If you're not already doing this, now is the time to sign up. It's typically fast, convenient and free.
When you aren't given that option, there is a simple solution. Purchase a scanner, which will then allow you to scan your printed bills and receipts into whatever software program you're using. Then, the hard copy can be shredded. (You know I love the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, right? ) If you want tips on how to make those PDFs searchable so you can find them in your digital filing cabinet, check out this quick read on making your digital files searchable (and editable, plus 5 Ways to Tame Your Digital Documents.
Choosing a Filing System
Whether you want to go electronic or not, you need to come up with a basic filing system that's easy for you to stick to and, most importantly, not get frustrated with. This works best when you co-ordinate your filing efforts with a calendar or organizer.
There are several ways to set up a filing system. The choice you make is up to you. These methods include:
Month-to-month (a good choice for those who don't have a lot of credit card payments and other recurring bills)
Color coded (if you're more of a visual person, color-coded files are probably for you)
Subject or category (use broad categories such as "credit cards" and "utility bills," or create a separate file category for each company you pay)
For more information on setting up your filing system, take a quick read of another post, Is Your Desk Ready for the New Year? Here, I highlight my favorite way to triage your paperwork and set up your filing system.
If you have the time and inclination, it's better to open bills and other financial correspondence as soon as you receive it. Taking the time to file documents away, during the same session, makes things even more streamlined. But at a minimum, set yourself a place to put “to file” items so they don’t linger around cluttering your space.
Now that you have some ideas in regard to organizing your finances, you're on the road to a tidier filing cabinet - or digital desktop. Better yet, you can say goodbye to the frustration associated with digging through piles of documents to locate the specific financial information you need.
Depending on your current state of disorganization, sorting things out may take some time. But, that's okay. With a bit of due diligence and steady progress, you will find success. Remember, it's not how fast you get everything done. The important thing is that you'll finally be able to easily find a receipt or bank statement right when you need it.