How Do I Organize My Finances?

 

Last week I posted a major reason on why you should get your finances organized.

Now you may be thinking how in the hell do I exactly do that?

Here's how:

  • Create a block of time you can focus. Find yourself a nice open space to spread out and remove all interruptions and distractions. Shut down Facebook, Twitter and however else you waste time on the interwebs. Hide your phone.
  • Gather EVERYTHING financially related together. Leave no man behind.
  • Sort all this paperwork out by bank, lender and/or type. Chase checking account is separate from Chase credit card. Investments - 401K is in a separate pile from the IRA. Student loans by lender unless all are consolidated. Receipts for business/tax purposes. Bills. So on and so forth. Each financial item gets it's own stack.
  • Now go through each stack and put the papers in chronological order. I personally prefer backwards chronological order so the most recent info is on top.
  • Toss out anything that is too old. There are plenty of handy-dandy lists on the internet that let you know how long to keep paperwork. I like this one. Don't forget to shred anything with personal information on it.
  • NOW...you can find yourself some files (or reuse what you've got.) Perhaps you prefer folders. Whatever floats your boat. Put each chronological category into it's own file.
  • LABEL IT.

Seriously. You'd think I wouldn't need to tell you that but I once came across a set of files that were meticulously put together. Each credit card bill was stair-stepped so you could see the tops of each month's bill. Perfectly and neatly placed in the file. WAY more effort than I would have ever put into it.

BUT NO LABELS!!

That is called "misplaced effort" my friends. And it's still not technically organized because you can't easily find what you need when you need it.

  • So label your files. Doesn't have to be fancy. It can even be just a post-it note. (Got this tip from a client!) Using post-its make it super-easy to change file names and reuse a file for as long as it will hold up.
  • Once everyone is in a file, gather them into groupings by type - taxes, bank, bills, investments, student loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc. If using a traditional file system, then place each grouping of files into it's own hanging file, labeled by broad category.
  • Pop into your file box (or magazine file or whatever method of filing container you'd like to use) and you're done! Everything is neatly together and has a home. If you run into financial trouble, you'll be able to grab your paperwork in a moment's notice.

How do you organize your finances?