Clear The Clutter: Organze Your Financial Records...

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Learn how to organize your financial documents and clear your paperwork clutter.

Organizing your financial documents doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, the simpler your system the more likely you’ll stick to it. Follow these tips to get your paperwork under control.

Set up a system

The first step is to develop a routine that is simple enough for you to maintain. It might be a dedicated drawer by the front door to store new bills as you walk in, 30 minutes set aside each Saturday morning to get through the paperwork pile or a reward system for staying on track with your filing.

And consider syncing your filing system with your daily organizer by marking due dates for bills and other important items on your calendar as you file the document. That way you’ll have a visual reminder about items that need to be taken care of, without having the paperwork scattered about your home.

Out with the old, in with the new

One way to reduce all that paper clutter is to replace old documents with the most current ones. This includes updated insurance policies, wills, home equipment manuals and so on. Not sure what you should save and what you should shred? Check out these tips.

Be safe with your storage

Documents that you need occasional access to should be stored at home in waterproof bags in a fireproof safe. This would include documents like titles, Social Security cards and passports.

For other documents that you regularly need, a home filing cabinet will do. Just be sure to purchase cabinets that lock—and be sure to lock them. While this isn’t the most secure option, it is better than having paperwork strewn about for all to see.

File by code

When filing paperwork away in your file cabinet, create a coding system that makes sense to you. This may mean you’re filing items together by month, category, the action needed (follow-up, pay, reference) or by color (where green folders hold policies, red folders hold bills to pay, etc.). Whatever coding system makes sense to you, be sure to stick with it.

Elect to go electronic

Before you file the manual for that waffle maker, find out if you really need to keep it. Many manuals can be found online. The same is true of your bank and credit card statements, although you’ll need to check with your institution to find out how long your records can be accessed online, and whether there are any fees for that access.

You can also digitize your financial records with a scanner—just be sure to save these documents on an encrypted flash drive or external hard drive. You then have the option to upload these documents to secure online services. This enables you to access your documents from any location if your home is ever damaged or destroyed. Before opting to go this route be sure to do your research to understand the service’s security and fees.

Source: Bankrate.com, USAA.com, Money Girl
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