For many of us, the hardest part about managing our money is keeping track of all the paperwork that comes with it! If you fall into this camp, then read on for some tips to make your financial life run more smoothly.
• Get started by allocating one place (an intray, box or file) for all incoming paperwork. As soon as your mail arrives, open each envelope and place all bills, invoices, statements, and information relating to your money in that place. Throw out any junk mail or unwanted paper at this time.
• Track your “payment due dates” to ensure you don’t miss any payments. You could do this in your diary, on a wall calendar, or by storing your bills in due date order in your inbox. Highlighting the due date on each bill with a bright highlighter pen can also be helpful.
• Develop a weekly routine or habit of sitting down and working through this pile. Pick up each piece of paper and deal with it appropriately – pay the bills as they come due, file the invoices and statements, and act on any new information that has come to hand. Many people find Sunday evening a good time for this, but you can pick any regular time during the week that suits you.
• Find a filing system that works for you. For most of us, a big ring binder or a concertina file will be sufficient at home. Make sure you file all bills and information together in appropriate groups. Common headings include items such as Bank, Farmers Card, NZ Fly Buys, Gas, Electricity, Insurance, Mortgage, Phone, Rates, and Visa. If you own your own business or are self-employed you may have a larger filing cabinet available that you could use for your paperwork. For families with young children, keep the paperwork away from sticky fingered temptation.
• Have regular purges – if you find your file getting too bulky, check through to see what you can get rid of. You can either shift older papers to storage in a box, or you can throw them out if they are not needed (just be aware for those who are self-employed that you will need to keep some papers for 7 years for tax purposes).
Being in control of your paperwork will make it much easier to manage your money, and will lay the groundwork for budgeting, applying for loans (perhaps to finance home improvements, family vacation, renovations, or mortgage) and saving for your retirement.