What do you do with all your receipts, monthly bills, and bank statements? Do they end up strewn from here to breakfast until you realize that you need to return something you’ve bought? That was how things worked at our house until I started managing the family finances more actively. Now, we have a process, a method, a system.
After my wife reconciles the checkbook register (things would be crazy if we were both writing checks all the time from the same joint account), she puts her receipts, the monthly bills, and the bank or credit card statements into a folder on our computer desk. I “work my magic” (I’ll insert a link to that post with more detail once it’s done) and then need to file all the paperwork.
The most appropriate action for each piece of paper depends how it might need to be used:
- Grocery/Dining Out – Chances are pretty slim that I’ll need to ever reference one of these again, so they all get paperclipped together and put into a hanging folder with the gasoline receipts.
- Gasoline – Like the above, I’ll probably never need to look at these again, so these also get paperclipped together and put in the hanging folder with the grocery receipts.
- Small Receipts for Everything Else – These receipts include electronics purchases and other products that might need to be returned, exchanged, or referenced. I’ve found that it works well to file them alphabetically in a small accordion file by the name of the store.
- Large Receipts for Everything Else – These will need to be pretty easily available but they don’t fit into the small accordion file. You could paper clip them together by month (or alphabetically by store) and place them in a single hanging file folder for all the large receipts. I generally just put them in the hanging folder with no specific organization, though that does lengthen and complicate the process of finding a receipt, when necessary.
- Receipts for Reimbursement – It might make sense to have these in their own hanging file folder.
- Monthly Bills and Bank Statements – This group is probably the most frequently referenced so careful organization is key. I like to put all the monthly paperwork in a single hanging file, paperclipping like bills/statements together. So within that hanging folder I have a little bundle of paycheck stubs, another of mortgage payment stubs, another of bank statements, etc.
The volume of paperwork is such that I find it necessary to collect the above for only 12 months at a time. Each year we buy a new accordion file and start a new hanging folder for each type of receipt or statement. We also enjoy keeping all our tax-related papers (including a copy of our finished returns) in one place for easy reference.
If I remember correctly, the recommendation is to retain financial-related paperwork for a period of seven years. Once you have receipts/etc. that is older than that, be sure to dispose of it properly using a cross-cut shredder. Don’t even think about throwing it straight into the trash!
My method of filing may not work for you, but describing it might give you a chance to re-think your way of doing things. Is there not room for improvement in virtually every aspect of our lives?