Maxine’s Housekeeping Tips – Part #11
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Friday’s Tip: Organizing Your Papers
I’m sure I’ve spent literally MONTHS of my life looking for bills, receipts and warranty information. Today I’m going to tell you how I organized my papers. Unlike most of my other tips, where I invariably confess, “If I did this consistently….” these are ideas that I have used for 15 years BECAUSE THEY ARE EASY AND THEY WORK.
You will need a file drawer or box and file folders; labels, etc., are optional. I find that hanging files help keep things neater and therefore easier to use.
Start by labeling 12 file folders by every month of the year. This is where you will keep your bills. You can begin by just dropping your bills into the folders as they come, or if you go on a massive cleaning binge, you can file your various piles. When I pay my bills each month, I just take out this month’s folder, pay the bills and clip the receipts together inside the folder. I do the same for next month and so on. Next year, when I’m back at this month, I will discard all of this year’s receipts when I pay my bills. The idea is that you keep receipts for one year and then you discard them.
There is at least one exception (you may have more). Make a folder called SAVE FOR TAXES. When you make a charitable contribution or pay a bill that you might be able to deduct on your taxes, slip it into the folder. If I don’t have a receipt for it, I just tear out the check duplicate and file that. Each month, when you purge your monthly folder and toss last year’s bills, take a second to flip through them to make sure you didn’t miss filing something that might be tax deductible.
Depending on your situation, you will need several more folders. These are mine: INSURANCE (separate folders for car, life, medical and homeowner’s); BANK STATEMENTS (file new ones in front and when the file gets full, pull some out of the back and discard); IRAs; 401(k) PLAN; CAR RECEIPTS; PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTS; TITLES & DEEDS; IMMUNIZATIONS; PETS. If you have room in your box, you can also file tax returns for the last 3 years. (I have returns for quite a lot longer than that in a separate cardboard file box that I keep on a closet shelf).
If you are just starting out, a file folder for WARRANTIES & RECEIPTS should suffice. However, the best thing I’ve ever found (thanks, Bonnie McCullough) is an expanding alphabetical file. I staple the receipt to the instruction book or warranty and file it in the appropriate slot.
If you think you need a 4 drawer file cabinet for all your stuff, you are saving too much. Organizational experts tell us that 80% of the papers we file never see the light of day again. You can easily file all of your necessary household papers in ONE file drawer, plus an extra box for old tax returns, etc. If you ever question whether to keep something or throw it away, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that will happen if I throw this away? Then GET RID OF IT.
Here’s how I pay my bills:
When they come, I open them right away and throw away the envelope, inserts, etc. I do this because they take up less room in the file, plus I don’t need any surprises on bill-paying day. It is easier to deal with them one at a time instead of all at once!
I have a regular day to pay bills. I used to have to mark it on my calendar so I wouldn’t plan something else instead. It used to be on the 1st (I wish it still were). Now it is right after my gas bill comes around the 5th. It’s the last bill I receive, and I know my other bills start coming due around the 10th, so this triggers my memory to pay my bills.
My bank statement comes around the 3rd, give or take a day. Because I’m a math midget, I have a rule that I can’t pay bills until I balance my checkbook (to keep bad things from happening). So I always do this within the first day or two after it arrives. Because I don’t want to fry my brain, I usually balance my checkbook on one day and pay bills on another. Divide and conquer, that’s me.
If you are disorganized in paying your bills and keeping track of important papers, these tips just might save your sanity! As always, there is more than one way to do it. If you have tried these ideas and they don’t work, or part of your current system is working and part is falling apart, use these ideas as a starting point to analyze your situation. Disorganized people often are disorganized because they don’t take the time to figure out what works for them. (I know this, because…………..).
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Here’s Maxine’s next Housekeeping Tip: Organizing Your Recycling
NOTE: Be sure to stop by and “Like” A Frugal Simple Life on Facebook!
Other Articles of Interest: