Keeping track of important documents and financial records is an important part of managing your financial wellbeing. With a mix of paper-based and digital records, and the use of a range of apps and websites, it’s hard to keep those important documents at your fingertips. Now’s a great time to get your records in order – and we have some steps to help you.
1. Clean out and throw away unnecessary documents
If you have piles of paper or folders full of old records and documents, the first step is to purge. Clean out any unnecessary documents, bank statements or records older than 7 years, and anything you no longer need.
Then get in the habit of purging your paperwork as you go. Put junk mail, unwanted catalogues, and receipts you don’t need to keep in the bin straight away so they don’t add to your paperwork mountain.
Make sure you only keep documents for the time they’re valid. Set calendar reminders for bills that need to be paid, and store the BSB/Account details in your reminder.
2. Use Separate Baskets or Folders
If you’re using a paper-based model, have four baskets or folders into which you can separate your paperwork as soon as it is received. If you’re going digital, have the same folders on your computer.
- To Do
- Bills to Pay
- To Be Filed
- Follow up/Must Read
Then each week clear out paperwork or mark paid, and file it away for record keeping.
3. Make filing a habit
Give yourself a short time every week to file the papers in your ‘to be filed’ folder.
Make a date (put it in your calendar, or it won’t get done) grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea, put on some music, and get to work.
If you keep on top of it, it shouldn’t take longer than about 5 – 10 minutes a week. Once you’re done, set a time in your calendar for the following week.
4. Clear and separate
It’s easier to quickly find something if you file like with like. So if you’re paper-based, using one or more filing boxes with coloured card dividers, or a filing cabinet if you have the space, file your paperwork into sections including:
- Employment: payslips, pension information, contracts and tax returns, group certificates.
- Car:Rego Paperwork, Insurance certificates
- Finance: bank and credit card statements, loan agreements.
- House: mortgage information, insurance documents, maintenance information etc. Loan Anniversary, Broker or Financial Planners details
- Family: Individualized this into a section for each family member and include birth and marriage certificates, wills, passports, health information.
- Bills: you could subdivide these into gas, electricity, council tax etc.
- Pets: vaccination details, worming and de-flea-ing information, council registration etc.
5. Be specific
Make your filing system specific and try not to have a ‘Miscellaneous’ file if you can help it, as you risk losing things in there.
But at the same time, don’t be too specific and have separate sections for just one piece of paper, or you’ll have unnecessarily bulky (and confusing) files.
6. Keep Private/Fire Proof
If you want to be extra-careful, buy a fireproof box to store irreplaceable documents such as birth and marriage certificates, passports and wills.
Buy a safe if you need to keep things secure.
7. Separate the sentimental
Don’t let sentimental items get mixed up with important paperwork. Dedicate a file or a box to each of your children, for example, and put old reports, schoolwork, drawings and memories in there.
8. Scan to your computer/iPad or phone
If you want to be super-organized, scan important documents to your computer so you’ve got a back-up, and if you’re asked for copies, you can send them online without having to raid your paperwork.
9. Review and refresh.
You don’t need to keep everything forever, so it’s a good idea to do a clean-out of documents (whether paper or digital) twice a year. That way you know your records are current and up-to-date.
At least twice a year, sort through the documents in your files to see if any can be thrown away.
A good time to do this is at the start of the year and at the start of a new financial year.
Don’t let a messy filing system or disorganised records slow you down when you’re wanting to apply for a loan. Spend some time cleaning up your files, and then it will only take a few minutes each week to keep on top of it all.