Today’s post is from Mr Credit Card from www.askmrcreditcard.com. Though his site reviews credit cards, today, he is going to share how he organizes and files his financial statements.
One of the most forgotten but important factors in keeping ahead of finances is organization. An unorganized person misses payments, loses receipts and has no idea which bills have or have not been paid. It may seem daunting, but this checklist may aid you in getting things in order and in the end, saving you some cash. In this post, I am going to show you how I organize my files. But first, why even organize your files?
The Purpose of Organizing Files
As stated in the introduction, there are a number of reasons to organize personal finance files. Here are just a few:
- Helps to make sure bills are paid on time.
- Aids in keeping proper and accurate records.
- Helps to track your monthly budget to assist in cutting excessive spending.
- Helps to track monthly bills and expenses that are used in filing taxes which can make year end filing a lot easier.
Organize bills and statements by either due date or by interest rate, preferably highest to lowest to ensure that the highest interest rate is paid off quickly, thus saving you money.
What Needs to Be Organized?
Gather all of your bills and statements from monthly cable bills all the way to checking account statements. Everything that involves money needs to be organized and accounted for and since we’re organizing we may as well include it all now. It is also helpful to grab a bunch of those cheap folders and a Sharpie. I get mine from staples BTW. Some of the bills and statements you need to gather are the following:
- Monthly Bills – utilities, cable, cell phone – I tend to lump under one file because these are bills that we pay every month. If it is all in one file, then filing it becomes much easier. I used to have separate files for each but they were really cumbersome. This works for me. My comcast, Verizon FIOS and AT&T bills go into this file.
- Mortgage, estate taxes and auto loan – This goes under a separate file from my utilities etc because these are loans that will eventually be paid off anyway. The thing I watch out for in the mortgage bill is the escrow account and I make sure that I keep the year end statement that list the annual interest that I have paid. This amount is tax deductible. The auto loan is just there so I do not have to set up a separate file. Presently, our mortgage is with Wells Fargo and the auto loan is with Toyota.
- Bank accounts – savings, checking, retirement – Next file is the bank account. I put all the statements in this file including Mrs Credit Cards’ statements. Presently, we bank with Bank of America, so there are just a couple of statements every month. The most important statement (all are important) is the annual statement that shows how much interest you have earned (reportable to the IRS).
- Credit Cards – I keep a separate file for all our credit card statements. They are important to keep in case there is any disputes. Presently, I use cash back credit cards (have two and have one for our business) and it is important for me to keep track of my rebates that I earn. Like all my other files, I keep the statements for 12 months and once the new year starts, I just file them away in a separate box and use the same file again for the following year.
- Insurance – This file is complicated – auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance
- Medical File – While you could actually file this under the “insurance” file, I think a separate file for medical expenses, medical insurance policies make sense. This file is huge and complicated. But you really want to keep every receipt and statements here.
- Frequent Flyer accounts and memberships – You simply gotta keep track of all these miles and frequent flyer points you have accumulated because they have monetary value. You do not want them to lapse. Because I have flown so many airlines, and stayed in so many hotels, both Mrs Credit Card and myself are members of lots of programs! This is the file which we keep track of our points status from Starwood, Delta Skymiles, Virgin etc.
- Coupons, rebates file – This is a little coupon folder that Mrs Credit Card has.
- Warranties and Big Ticket Purchases – This is the file or box where we put any instruction manuals or warranties from any appliance or big ticket purchases that we have made. I feel that it is important to have them all at one place so that you know where to find it if anything breaks down
- Personal tax information – Always have a separate file for this. Not much else to say
- Investment File – I have a separate file for my investments. They include statements, portfolio reviews, K1 statements from some ETFs that I’ve bought! I guess if you have kids 529 plans, then I would put them in this file too
I keep my business finance totally separate from my personal finance files (just to keep them clean). But these are the files that I have.
- Business Checking Account statements – at present we only have one bank account with Bank of America
- Business Credit Cards – We used to use one of our personal cards for business expenses, but we have now gotten a dedicated business credit card
- Payroll Records – We use paychex and this one requires a huge box since they send lots of statements!
- Receipts for expenses and purchases – We have a folder that has 12 or more slots and we simply put receipts there according to month
Notes and Other Helpful Hints
There are some things to keep in mind when organizing that will make the process even easier. For instance, I set up autopay to automatically pay bills from my bank account which helps to not only ensure that bills are paid on time, but it saves money in late fees and interest. I do, however, still receive the actual statements in the mail so I have something tangible for filing purposes. There are some areas like our webhost or internet services that simply do not send mail statements that I have to print them out myself.
- We use Quicken as well to keep track of both personal and business expenses
- I mentioned a coupon and rebate file because whenever you have a rebate or a coupon, it helps to have it where you can find it quickly. What good is having a coupon if you can’t find it when you need it?
- It is also helpful to jot down information inside the folder such as contact numbers. This way when you need to give customer service a call, you can just grab the appropriate file. This is also where I note things like passwords, though some people may not be comfortable with that.
Feel free to experiment and switch things around. Try out different filing systems, for instance and find things that work for you, personally.
In the end, you’ll feel much better about having your personal finances all organized and in one place. You’ll find yourself saving tons of time looking for stuff as well as saving money and the frustration that is inevitable when you can’t find something. It may seem like a daunting task, but when organizing is completed, life is a lot less stressful. This is what I do and my methods. Please share you methods with us.