Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The beginning of the year is an important milestone in my efforts to keep my papers in order. I've been filing by the month for several years now, so when the new year rolls around I have to clear out the old files to make way for the new. I LOVE filing this way. Here's how it works. All of my bills, statements, receipts, and other business-y paperwork goes in one folder for each month. I do NOT separate out the water bill from the phone bill from the grocery receipts, which saves a ton of work. I pay what needs to be paid, enter it all in my computerized check register, and plop it all in one folder instead of spending 20 minutes filing everything individually. IT WORKS. When I need a receipt to make a return, for instance, I am able to find it easily. When I need to refer back to a bill, I can find those pretty easily, too. It's no harder to look up a bill in my files by the date than by the company.

I do have two exceptions to everything-in-one-folder. The first is credit card receipts and bills. I have one folder for my cards and one folder for DH's cards. Those seem to be the one item where I might need to access more than one month at a time, so it's easier to keep those separate. I try to match receipts to bills and keep track of my spending somewhat (in theory) so I don't want them all mixed up with non-credit card receipts. The idea is to match each month's receipts with the bills as they come in, but I found myself sitting down with a huge folder of unmatched MESS today. I quickly got them in order, though, and matched the receipts to bills for the entire year in about an hour. (I'm so proud of myself for getting that job done; just had to brag.)

The second exception is medical paperwork. Statements from the insurance company, doctor bills, prescription receipts, and so forth.

To finish everything off, I have a second drawer for long term files. That's paperwork from companies that I might need to refer to over time filed in a more traditional manner. Insurance policies, information on car repairs, correspondence from our homeowner's association, initial contracts with phone companies, that type of thing.

So that's my filing system in a nutshell. It's worked for me for a lot of years now and it's saved a boatload of time. I also really like that I clear out my main file drawer once a year so it doesn't get overly full. I keep a small file box in a corner of the room with last year's files; when I need to clear that out the now-two-year-old files go in a storage bag and up to the attic, then last year's go in so it's constantly rotating. Works for me!!

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