Most people learn something when they get into the habit of organizing their finances. It makes life easier and less stressful when you create a budget and stick to it. You know exactly how much money comes to you, where your money is going, and how to control the flow of your cash. You also have statements, receipts and important documents that are easy to access and back up for replacement if need be. Plus you have lists to help you save. Always remember that becoming debt free and controlling your finances means more peace of mind.
The truth is we create needless work and worry for ourselves when we do not make the effort to get financially organized. Often the biggest leap to getting on financial track is getting over a negative mindset. A lot of people are unwilling to organize their finances because they think there is simply too much to do. The secret here is to turn big leaps into baby steps.
Taking specific steps makes the process easier.
Create shopping lists. Before you shop - be it for groceries, clothes, or household and pleasurable needs – make a written list of what you are prepared to buy and spend – and stick to it.
The most important first step to getting financially organized is creating a budget, which includes tracking your spending on a monthly basis. Put a home budget in writing based on your income, expenses, spending, and short-term and long-term goals.
Once you’ve got a budget framework your organizational tasks become clear. And again, take one step at a time for each task. In the end you will have created a system that you can automatically follow over time – and life is so much more manageable.
Sign up for electronic bills and have a good e-filing system. When the bill arrives, save it into the right file before moving on to another task.
Guidelines to keeping your house in order.
Here are some pointers that can turn chaos into order for important financial documents, personal papers, and lists.
- Create a central filing. For all your financial and personal documents, create a central location for filing, with lists or tags for quick access (consider colour coding, too).
- File for easy access. Use a well organized filing system. Depending on your financial needs, your filing system may contain physical hard copies or electronic copies. You should have one file for each credit card, each bank account, auto insurance, health claims, health insurance, life insurance, and so on.
- Create a system for bill payments. Designate a regular time each month to review bills and pay them. Where possible, automate your bill payments, as well as payments towards savings and investments so that you are disinclined to put the money toward other things.
- Manage digital files. Sign up for electronic bills and have a good e-filing system. When the bill arrives, save it into the right file before moving on to another task. When you read an email that requires action, always put a reminder or flag on the message to be sure it does not get lost. Consider software like Evernote to track all your online payment confirmation numbers.
- Set a time for review. Make time at least once a month to review your bill payments and financial standing. Involve other family members if the finances affect them, and particularly if the family is experiencing financial trouble.
- Safeguard documents. Keep important documents in a safe, a safety deposit box, or at the very least a lockable, fire resistant case or trunk. Items such as titles, passports, insurance policies, and government issued documents should all be in safekeeping.
- Keep copies. Keep copies of all your important documents. This includes things such as passports, credit cards, and social security cards.
- Take notes. Keep a notebook with you or by the phone. Write down or flag information when you make important calls involving your money and bills. Write when you called, who you talked to (employee ID number if available), and any actionable discussion. It’s a sure way to avoid confusion, and potential red-tape company nightmares.
- Close duplicate accounts. Downsize all your financial accounts unless they play important specific roles. If you have more than one bank account or credit card, consider dumping them. If you have multiple credit cards with debt consider debt consolidation.
- Save receipts. Collect all receipts monthly, compare them to your budget, and put them in an envelope. Keep the envelope for at least a year, or even longer if the receipts affect your taxes (this is particularly important for those who are self-employed).
- Create shopping lists. Before you shop - be it for groceries, clothes, or household and pleasurable needs – make a written list of what you are prepared to buy and spend – and stick to it.