For people who love paper, tax season can mean a dining room table covered with receipts and paperwork while you complete your return. Once the big day has come and gone, you find yourself faced with figuring out how to get that mountain of paper under control and get it organized for once and for all. If you are anything like me, your first thought might be to buy new office products. Seriously ~ there are SO many cute office organization products out there! So you buy them, they look great, you bring them home, but somehow you don’t make any progress on that messy dining room table. So today I’m going to take you through the four pieces of the puzzle that will help you tackle that big mess on your table now and put a fresh system into place to help you manage paperwork and keep you on the road to organized taxes all year long.
Figuring out how to organize receipts is a bear for busy Moms. Consider a 13 pocket expanding file as ground zero. Simply label each section with categories for the receipts you are bound to keep. This is a monthly receipt catcher so anything that you purchase and get a receipt for, put it in there. At the end of each month, empty the receipt catcher and file receipts you need to keep to their proper permanent home and shred any you don’t. Categories for receipts you may want to keep can be groceries, gas, recreation, clothing and more.
Answering the question about how to organize your bills can be just as daunting as paying them. Use an 8 pocket organizational folder that is spiral bound to make it perfectly portable. Create headings 1-15 and 16-31, the two times of the month that you would pay the bills. Then have the headings Act On and Review. When paper is coming into your house, you file it automatically into this tool keeping your paper properly filed and your mobile office ready to go. You can then take care of paperwork while at home or at work, to carpool or sports practice, enabling you to stay on top of your to do list no matter where you are.
Once you process your papers, you need to file them and for me, learning how to organize with a monthly system was the best step ever. Label 12 folders for one month at a time and file any paper you have process here, including bills. Not by topic such as utilities, gas, credit card, simply by the month. Why? Because when I pay my bills, if I don’t pay them online, I’ll be left with a stack of papers. They need a home and by filing by the month, I’ve given them just that. Come tax time, I can take a few minutes with that year’s worth of paper and sort as needed by category for tax preparation, long term storage, or shredding.
Use a 26 pocket expanding file for important document storage. Label by category for tax preparation and long term storage, one file per year. Think key categories like charitable savings utilities, food, transportation, recreation, medical anything that you might have to track for taxes or expenses.you empty the folders, you can sort by these headings and end up only keeping the paper you need.
You goal is to create a long term process that will take you the the year with paperwork organized all year long. Receipts are where it begins ~ the point of purchase and key information you need for taxes. Its incredibly important in all facets of your life. While you aren’t home as much as you want, you need to pay your bills on time and take care of things life’s details in a timely manner, like phone calls or more. You need to file paper as you deal with it in a monthly folder so that it doesn’t pile up on that dining room table. And finally, when the end of the year comes, once you sort those monthly folders for key information, you seal the deal by keeping what you need long term and shredding what you don’t.
Having a mountain of paper on your dining room table is a great opportunity to get organized now. Remember, being organized is a journey, not a destination. Your life is a moving target so put systems into place that will keep you strong and moving on. Tell me ~
How do you organize your paper for tax time all year long?
Our February Family Finance Series is your playbook for doing more than just organizing your tax papers. Its all about having organized family finances including how to set up a budget planner, create a home inventory update your insurance policies, organize file storage and focusing on document safety using SuzeOrman’s important document list to help you decide what to include in your safe. You don’t have to wait till next year to get started. Now is the perfect time to harness your energy for all things finance related and get yourself organized for the year ahead. And if you love Pinterest, stop by our Family Finance Board for some great tips from around the web to help you find your best solutions.
Thanks so much for stopping by ~ we’ll see you next time!
Disclosure: This post was first published in 2011, part of my feature Get Organized with Molly Gold on NBC17 My Carolina Today. Carolina Pad & Paper provided product for this TV spot. I was not compensated by either party. My opinions are entirely my own.