Monday, June 30, 2014

Organizing financial and other papers

I'm not really sure how I got into organizing my paperwork at home, but it was somewhat inspired by how I observed people filing away their work at my first job.

Organizing approach

It's a pretty standard approach to organizing.  I use a bunch of hanging files in a small 2-drawer filing cabinet and have various categories -- one for each of the bank accounts, one for each of the utility companies, one for car records, one for every year of taxes, one for medical records (which I then later broke into physical, dental, optical, and mental), one for my flexible spending account (FSA), etc.

For longer term records that do not need day-to-day access (such as tax returns and supporting paper work, and FSAs from prior years), I use cardboard filing boxes such as this one from Bankers Box.

Financial records -- what to keep?

For the first few years, I kept everything.  Of course, after a decade or so, I noticed papers piling up.  The hanging folders were all bulging.  That's when I tried to figure out what needs to stay and what can go.  This page from Bankrate provides some guidance for what needs to stay and what can go.  I do hang on to all of my tax returns and since I started using an FSA, I have been hanging on to those records as well.  Other than that I tend to purge things early each year -- I hold on to bills and statements for at least a year but toss everything else.  There's always the option to go electronic and just keep these files such as bills and statements electronically, but for now, I still keep everything in paper.

Non-financial records

For non-financial records, I still hold on to everything, but I really ought to find a better way to organize this.  For instance, I have thought of transferring the records to an electronic form such as spreadsheet that is easily searchable.