March 22, 2017
If you look down at the bottom half of this post, you'll see what I used to do at the first of every year. In reviewing it today, I realize that so much has changed. In the past, I had a manila folder for every account. Now I have a scanner, and while I do still have a few paper files, most of my paperwork is managed in the folders I maintain on the scanner. I love it because if I can't find it in the folder where I think I put it, I can do a search. It's so much easier than sorting through an entire file cabinet.
Here's my process for handling paper. Maybe you'll have another way of doing it that works better for you.
1. When the paper comes in, if it has anything to do with money, I enter it in Quicken, and then I scan it.
2. Once it's scanned, I put a check mark in the top corner, and put it in a folder that simply says, "Receipts - 2017."
3. When I have paperwork that relates to household goods, like appliances or warranties and receipts on small appliances, I put it in a notebook. I have page protectors inside, so I just slide the paperwork inside the protector. Lots of times I enroll for the warranty online, so I will not only save that confirmation email, but I will also "print" to the scanner. That way I never have to print it on paper.
4. I have eliminated a lot of paper by stopping paper statements. I do all of our banking online, and even our credit card statement is electronic. Once again, I "print" it to the scanner, then balance it in my Quicken account, and schedule the payment. Throughout the month, I have checked the balance online and entered the charges in Quicken as I go, so the balance isn't usually a big surprise. I know how much I can spend and still be able to pay it off each month.
5. I do keep a paper file for our automobiles and a few other things where we have a lot of paperwork. If possible, I scan it so there's always an electronic copy, but in some cases, like information from opening a new bank account, it doesn't seem worth it.
Since I've talked so much about using the scanner, I should mention that I'm using the neat desktop scanner shown here. I am really happy with it and wish I'd bought it years ago! I can put a stack of receipts from Home Depot, for instance, in the "receipts" slot, or use the "cards" slot for business cards. I no longer have to keep a stack of business cards on my desk.
So what are YOU doing to cut down on the amount of paper you manage?
2012. It's tax time. Well, almost. I've started the process of moving last year's files into a different space and replacing them with files for this year. Many of the file folders will be the same, and in duplicating the folders, I realized that I also have files on appliances and household items. That's not something I want filed away in a closet. It occurred to me that maybe they should all go into a binder that anyone might be able to find. I think binders have a useful purpose and they help me feel oh, so organized.
1. I had an empty binder on my bookshelf, so I started by filling it with page protectors and the even cooler ones that have pockets on each side.
2. I pulled file folders out of the drawer and put the contents of each one in a page protector/pocket.
3. I used my handy, dandy label maker and made a label for the binder.
4. I'm still thinking about whether I need to make a label for each page protector/pocket. I'm thinking not, since you can easily see the contents. I might want to use the protector for something else some day. Okay. Eliminate #4.
5. While I was at it, I browsed through the information I was "filing" in the binder. I realized I had at least one warranty card that had never been filled in. Good time to do that while it's in front of me.
6. I put the binder on the bookshelf in my office along with other "preparedness" books. Should be a good place to keep it since I refer to those books often. It feels pretty good to have all of that information in one place. Since I do have some new appliances this year, and have required some minor work while still in warranty, I've already had to refer to this paperwork. Fortunately, the first time around, I wrote in the information that was required, so it should be even easier if there is a next time. Now that I'm finished with that project, I'm ready to tackle something else. I've eliminated a handful of manila folders from my file drawer. Maybe now I'll go through last year's bills and see what I really need to keep. Utility bills? Doubtful.
What are you doing this year to make your information more accessible?