Monday, April 25, 2011

Motivational Monday #42 - Keep it Filed - Or Not

In our lives we deal with a ton of paperwork.  Everything from water bills to adoption papers cross our desks.  The question is what to do with it all.

The first thing to remember is that not all paperwork is created equal.  Your gas bill does not rank on the same level as the deed to your house.  Once a monthly bill is paid, and you verify it has cleared the bank, you don't need it, unless as proof of an expense.  The deed to to your house, on the other hand, is a must save item.

So in the battle of the paper pile, knowing what to file and what to shred is a major asset.  For what it is worth, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Monthly Bills - Residential bills don't need to hang around forever.  Assuming you are not using a household bill as a reimbursed expense, there is little need to hold onto the bill once payment has cleared. If you are like me, you can't get rid of it that fast, so hold onto the bills for 12 months, then shred them.
  2. Receipts - This is a big one at my house.  I love to hoard receipts.  Call it a sickness. If you ever wondered what I spent on groceries...I can show you. In reality, if you can't return it, don't keep it. Once again, I am NOT talking about business expenses, just personal expenses. So receipts for fast food, groceries, a pack of batteries, and other such disposables, do not need to hang around. Receipts for home repairs, large purchases, or warranty items need to be kept in an organized fashion.
  3. Insurance Papers - I can't tell you the number of times I have had to dig out medical insurance paperwork to verify benefits... so I am glad I keep it all.  If you spend a lot of time at the doctor's office, this can become a small mountain of paperwork in its own right.  Keep all insurance papers in a file of their own, and group by type, for example car insurance and medical insurance should be in separate folders.
  4. Tax Paperwork - It is my personal opinion that people don't file their taxes in February because they can't bear the thought of digging out all the needed paperwork, so they put it off until April.  When documents arrive that you know you will need for taxes, put them in a folder marked with that tax year.  Examples would include, property taxes, mortgage fees, pay stubs, investment documents, charitable donation receipts and medical receipts. Obviously this varies per person, but as you find these things, group them together.  You will be glad you did.
  5. Vital Records - This is the stuff we put in a "safe place" and then can't find.  Things like birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, adoption papers, military records, property deeds, and death certificates need to be kept safe and secure. While the magical "safe place" may seem like a good idea at the moment, a more realistic option is your copy of Prepared Binder. Collecting all you vital records keeps them safe, and allows you to access them as needed.
Okay, so there you have it, my cheat sheet to dealing with paper clutter.  Some things you file, some you shred and recycle.  As long as you do something with it, you will not be overwhelmed by it.  That said, I am off to tackle my own paper pile!  Have a great Monday.

(Now for my disclaimer...If what I said contradicts your accountant or tax preparer, then ignore me. It's okay, it won't hurt my feelings.  And remember, I am talking about personal bills, not business expenses.)

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