Being organized takes work, whether it is your closet or your finances that need to be whipped into shape. The holidays are coming and those big purchases of gifts for family and friend will soon be looming over us. Getting organized financially lets us knowing where we stand and what we can spend will take some of stress out of the season. Nobody enjoys scanning and sorting receipts and documents to keep track of bills and payments but without them our financial health may be up in the air. Tax season is around the corner also and being organized and help get the correct filing done and maximize a refund.
Pick an Organizational System
You don’t want to spend hours and hours getting everything organized just right to fall back into bad habits be lose out on all that hard work. The best way to get your finances organized is to pick a system that makes sense to you and how your brain organizes information. If it makes sense, you will stick with it even when everyday life gets a little overwhelming.
Figure Out If You Are An Old School Or New School Type
Old school financial organization most often includes a meticulously maintained spreadsheet or set of spreadsheets that keep track of all pertinent information that affects your monthly and yearly budget (income vs expenses), account balances and information, you and your family’s net worth and anything else that affects your finances. This system works because when done correctly you track every dollar in and out of your household whether it is your salary, an odd job here and there, or a gift for money coming in and every bill paid, deposit into savings or retirement, or just that night on the town for fun. All this tracking works but is also a lot of work, it takes discipline and time to set up the spreadsheets and at least weekly if not daily documentation of where the money is coming and going.
New school financial organizing embraces the advancements of the digital age. You can utilize software such as Quicken, which makes products for home and business finance management. This type of program helps point you in the direction of what things are most important to keep track of to keep your money in order and what things are good to track but are less vital to being successful. Also, since everything is in one place the software often provides a step-by-step plan to get started.
Beyond that type of software there are more and more websites, services and apps that help you get your finances organized automatically. Websites like Mint.com have apps for smartphones to help you organize purchases on the fly and frequently you can choose a category at the time of purchase. Acorns.com is an investment program with an app to help you start investing by taking the partial dollar amounts from purchases when you round up to the next dollar and putting them into a diversified portfolio and managing it for you if you need them to.
Whether you like new school, old school, or your own school, make sure it is something that you will keep using long-term and that you track money and money out no matter where the money is going.
Clean It Up
We like to talk like we live and work in paperless environments, but we all know that it’s not true. We still get bills and notices in the mail. Tax time everything is still mailed out. But to make life easier you can take all that hard copy and make it digital. More and more companies are making products that can smart scan receipts and documents and categorize them automatically. Once you scan the document into a saved file you can shred the physical paper and keep clutter to a minimum. To get started sort the physical paperwork in to key piles based on category then when you scan them into the computer make sure they get categorized the same way. Some key categories to get your finances organized are:
- Monthly bills
- Monthly income
- Account statements for all types of accounts (checking, savings, investments)
- Tax forms and past returns
- Insurance information: home, life, medical, car etc.
- Warranties on appliances, vehicles etc.
- Long-term financial commitments such as home mortgage, car loan
- Life documents including, birth certificates, marriage license, diplomas
While somethings you want to keep a physical copy of such as birth certificate, monthly bills will just being to pile up and encourage clutter. Make sure that once you have scanned and saved all you documents that you securely store physical copies in files and shred the ones you don’t need to keep. We are all at risk for identity theft, so do everything you can to limit access to your information.
Make it Work
Use your calendar on the wall or the one in your phone and schedule time to organize your finances and scan new items. Doing it once a month or even once a week will make your system flow smoothly and require less time if you don’t let the paper pile up. While keeping track of dollars in and out of your accounts can be boring, being organized will save you many headaches in the future. You will know where your money is going and why, where you can cut costs if needed, and what you can spend.