Put an End to Chaos Once and for All!
Guest post by Richard Jonas
Are stacks of unopened letters piled up on your desk or crammed into drawers or plastic bags?
Do you routinely pay late fees or bounce checks because you have no idea where your bills are or when they’re due?
Have you spent hours trying to find a receipt or a bill but eventually gave up in anger and frustration?
Today, you can put an end to that once and for all.
I’m going to give you exact, step-by-step instructions that will put you in control of your financial documentation. I’m not talking about digital files out in the cloud or somewhere on your hard drive. I mean bills, letters, invoices, notices, receipts, etc.
If you follow my instructions, you will never again have to guess where a bill is or where to find a receipt. Your paperwork will be highly organized and will actually become useful to you. You’ll eliminate a major source of frustration in your life and take a major step toward increasing your financial security and peace of mind.
Step 1: Set a start date.
Choose a day that you’ll devote to this project and nothing else. Why? Because starting on that day, disorganization and chaos in your financial documentation will become a thing of the past.
Step 2: Gather your tools.
Get the following items:
· Paper shredder.
· Letter opener.
· Stapler and extra staples.
· Large binder clips.
· Large trash can or trash bags.
· Several medium size cardboard boxes.
· Post It Notes.
Step 3: Prepare a work space.
Choose a room where you can create a large, open space on the floor. Move furniture if you have to but just clear off a large space on the floor. This will be your work space.
Step 4: Collect and sort
· In your work space, gather all your mail (opened or unopened), invoices, bills, receipts, letters. Everything. Go through your closets, your drawers, your garage, your car or anywhere else where you might have “stored” your unopened mail and other papers.
· Use your letter opener to slice open every envelope. Don’t remove the contents – just open them up and throw them into a box.
· Remove the contents of every envelope, one by one. As you open each letter, throw away any enclosed return envelopes or generic paperwork. Just keep the important pages and staple them together. Throw all the discarded paperwork into one of the trash bags.
· As you go through your papers, create a place on the floor for all documents in a certain category. Write the name of the category on a Post It Note and stick it on the floor by the stack so you can quickly see where each kind of document belongs. Medical bills in one stack, credit card bills in one stack, bank statements in one stack, etc. You’ll probably also need a Miscellaneous stack.
· If you find documents that you no longer need to keep but contain ANY kind of personal information (including your name and address), don’t throw them away – SHRED THEM!
TIP: If you have receipts or other small documents, here’s a trick to make them more manageable. Just staple them to a piece of paper and jot down a note describing the receipt. Write the note lengthwise along the edge of the paper. This allows you to file the receipt so the note is clearly visible and doesn’t get lost among the larger documents.
At the end of this step, every single piece of paper you collected should be in one the stacks.
Step 5: Organize each stack
Within each stack, sort all the documents into groups. For example, your medical bills stack may have invoices and lab reports from four or five different doctors. Find all the documents for each doctor and temporarily put them into separate stacks. Go through each doctor’s documents and sort them according to date, with the most recently dated document on top. Once you have a particular doctor’s documents organized, secure them with a binder clip. Repeat this for each doctor and once you’re done put them all back together in one medical bills stack. Repeat this procedure for each stack of documents.
After organizing each stack, place them in the expanding file. Label the expanding file’s tabs so you can quickly locate documents. (NOTE: here’s a link to what I mean by an “expanding file.”)
Clean up your trash and CELEBRATE! You just completed a very important task.
Step 6: Staying Organized
Now it’s time to adopt a completely different attitude toward checking your mail and staying organized. But it will be a THOUSAND times easier than before, since you took the time to organize your paperwork. Here’s how to stay organized for the rest of your life.
· Check the mail every day.
· Immediately open every letter that’s not an obvious piece of junk mail.
· Designate one place where you will always place any mail that needs to be acted on. Don’t use a drawer or file folder. You want to be able to see the documents every day, with no effort on your part (out of sight REALLY IS out of mind and that’s not what you want). Don’t procrastinate – just do it.
· Once it’s time to file away a document, immediately place it in the organizer with the other documents in the same category. Or, if you no longer need the paper version, you can always scan the document and store it on your computer instead. Again, don’t procrastinate – just do it.
This system works. If your financial paperwork is a nightmare, follow these instructions ASAP. You’ll be very glad that you did.
Richard Jonas is a licensed insurance professional and the president of PrivateQuote.com, an online marketplace that helps people compare life insurance quotes. You can download Richard’s free e-book, “How to Buy Life Insurance Online – An Insider’s Guide” by clicking here.