The start of a new year is the perfect time to declutter your finances, and get all your paperwork organized. You can get all your year-end docs ready, and file your taxes early (get your money sooner! or at least know what you owe), and start the year fresh.
After reading about Stephanie’s piles of paperwork, I was reminded why I like this time of year so very much.
It’s a time to stay indoors, wear warm socks (love my new SmartWool socks), drink tea (check), and clean up the inside of your home. Most people reserve spring cleaning for the spring, but I’d rather be outside in the spring, planting in the garden or playing with the kids.
Learn more: Spring Cleaning With Goodwill
The first step to decluttering the paperwork is to figure out where you are keeping it. Whether it’s on the kitchen counter, stuffed in a drawer, or in a pile on your desk, gather it all together, and bring it to one place. Make it your paperwork’s “home.”Do NOT designate a box for this, since out of sight is out of mind. If you have a lot to sort you may want to turn on some soothing music and use the living room floor.
Here’s what you need to organize paperwork:
- recycling container
- file folders
- portable file box, most people don’t need a large filing cabinet (if you do have one, you’ll need to pull everything out and go through it) You could also get one with space for pens, etc. and a handle if you don’t have an office space at home.
- fireproof box (if you don’t already have one), if you do make a folder designated for stuff that goes in the safe
- this list
- 1-5 hours (depending on how much paperwork you have)
- OPTIONAL: scanner
Once you have everything together, go one paper at a time. The goal is to touch everything only once. If you can’t identify where something goes, put it in the “I-don’t-know” pile. We’ll come back to that later.
Anything that is relevant to taxes should go in your 2008 taxes folder. Every account should have it’s own folder. If you have a car or home/condo, keep receipts for maintenance and improvement inside, you should also have a separate folder for loans associated with these assets (if any).
Shred anything that has the following info:
- account number
- social security number
- medical info
- legal info
- credit card offers
- address and name (such as utility bills, junk mail, etc.)
The fireproof safe is to keep important documents from, you know, burning to a crisp. Safes are fairly inexpensive for the protection they offer. You can get one as cheaply as $20 if you don’t have a lot of assets/paperwork, or as much as a few hundred. We went with a mid-range model from Target which set us back $50.
- social security cards
- credit cards you don’t use often
- birth certificates
- marriage certificates
You may also want to make a copy of your computer files and /or family photos and store them on a CD or mini hard drive.
Doesn’t that feel better? It’s like a breath of spring air!
Now that you’re all organized, you can set up a system for dealing with incoming bills/mail.
Learn more: Hacks To Help You Have An Awesome Year
Those papers you don’t know what to do with should be sorted one last time. If you think you may need those iron instructions one day, keep them with your other manuals. If you really think you need that receipt from the Apple store, scan it into your computer for safe keeping.
How do you deal with paperwork? Is there any kind of paperwork I missed?