Streamline your family's finances
Set up an easy-to-follow method for managing your money at home.
STEP 2: Set up a financial office space
Once your important documents are organized, find a place to manage them. Then use a simple system to keep everything in order.
Maintain traffic flow
Keep up your system with minimal time investment. A few minutes a week, and half an hour or so each month and once a year, will keep you organized and uncluttered.
• Weekly: Sort the papers and receipts you've collected into their proper folders.
• Monthly: Balance your bank and credit card statements by checking them against your receipts. Purge the receipts when you're done. Pay bills and balance your checkbook.
• Yearly: Check your monthly statements and bills against yearly statements. Sort out and throw away what you don't need, and save everything else for tax time.
Streamline your system
Consider these ways to make handling your money matters even more convenient:
• Automate payments on bills and credit cards so you'll be free of deadlines, penalties and late fees. Many utilities and banks offer this service.
• Pay bills online when you can―it's faster than the mail and you save money on stamps.
• Check out money-management software, such as Quicken, which can download your bank statements, help you budget and create practical reports on your financial situation.
• Get help from the kids, who like to sort and shred.
• Reexamine your system every year to address any changes in your life and adjust your paperwork accordingly.
Get smart about space and place: Dedicate specific spaces to your finances, and get rid of the shoe boxes under your bed. You'll need:
• A drawer, cabinet, lockbox or other container to safely store your paperwork. A fireproof in-home safe is also a good idea for long-term papers.
• A desk or table where you can do your monthly paperwork. Be sure to keep this area clear of clutter from other projects, magazines, the kids' homework, coupon clippings, etc.