Probably the most important habit of financial organization is maintaining your in-flow and out-flow systems. If you know how to handle each financial related tasks and their accompanying paperwork or electronic version as they come in, then it can’t pile up to a level where you are overwhelmed or feel defeated.
Make a Decision
Decide when you’ll take action. Will it be when the bill comes in? Or, do you want to collect them and handle everything once a week? If you are solely responsible for your financial situation, then take into account your natural tendencies and be realistic with your expectations. If your financial life is shared with a spouse or significant other, I suggest setting a time for a financial organize pow-wow at regular intervals. I’ve found that my couple clients are more successful when they dedicate 30 minutes a week to discuss:
- Account balances
- Bill paying
- Strategies for upcoming events or milestones (e.g., tax prep, major car repair)
If you struggle with money disagreements with your spouse, there may be some underlying issues you need to address. Or, you may not know how to start the conversation. Check out these conversation starters to discuss money-related topics with a loved one. Making a decision will let you move forward and keeping on top of your financial organization habits.
Create An Action Folder
By having a dedicated place to collect items that need to handled, you’ll find the stress around financial organization diminishing. Knowing that you have a specific place to temporarily store items will make it easier when it’s time to actually manage your finances. If you need more than one folder to manage your financial life, I suggest these simple categories:
- Bills & To Do
- To File*
- To Read
- To Shred
Any more and you’ll just be shuffling papers in folders and not getting organized. Whatever you decide, stick to it. Decide when and how you’ll handle the paperwork each week. As time goes by, it will get faster and easier as you develop good habits and have the right tools in place.
*There are different schools of thought regarding what to keep and what to toss. Your CPA or tax preparation professional can give you specifics for your situation. In the meantime, check out Suze Orman’s list so you avoid financial clutter.