Sadly, many home offices quickly take on a look which may be similar to the one above. When your paperwork is not organized, your life can also feel very disorganized. That can make it very difficult to find anything you need, pay your bills on time or even get ready for tax time. What you need to do is prepare household manuals to help you keep track of everything. They are easy to do, do not cost much and best of all – take up very little space in your home!
I actually have 3 different types of manuals available. You can do one, two or all of them. Or, you can combine them into just one simple manual instead – the choice is up to you! There are a lot of details involved with each one, so I am breaking up the posts so that you can get all of the information you need. Today, I am starting with the Home Finances Manual. Next week, I’ll share the other two manual — so check back then for those details!
HOME FINANCES MANUAL
As much as we hate it, we have to pay bills. We also have to pay our taxes by April 15th of every year. Missing the deadlines on either of these can prove very costly in penalties and/or late charges. When you are organized, it can help you prevent overlooking those due dates. The best part of this systems is that once the end of the year rolls around, you will be ready to take your files to your accountant (if you use one) or even do your own taxes without spending time gathering the items you need.
Before you can jump in and set up your manual, you will need a few items. Remember to recycle things you might already have in your home – no reason to buy new items if you don’t need to!
- 2″+ notebook (do not get one that is too large or it will be cumbersome to handle/carry)
- Package of plastic sleeves (use the ones that open completely)
- 14+ Dividers (usually come in quantities of 5)
- Printable Cover and Spine (if you wish to to do so)
The first thing you need to do is create a cover for your notebook. You can make your own spine and cover, or you can download some which I have created above – it is up to you.
Next you need to set up your dividers or tabs. Here are the ones I recommend you make:
- Bills To Pay
Within each section, you will place some of the plastic sleeves. We will go through each section and share the plastic sleeves you will use below.
Bills to Pay: When you receive a bill in the mail, rather than set it on your counter or desk, toss the outer envelope into the trash (or recycling bin) and then drop it into a plastic sleeve. This way, when you sit down to pay your bills, you can just grab the notebook and your bills will be handy. You will also want a second plastic sleeve included in this section which can hold blank envelopes and a sheet of stamps — and even an ink pen. This way, you will have absolutely everything you should need when you pay those bills.
Monthly Dividers: Within each month you will want to have plastic sleeves for various items. If you happen to own a label maker, you can place a label on them. Or, simply take some paper and write it on there and tape it to your sleeve. I happened to have some labels sitting here and just downloaded a template for my form and just printed mine. No matter which way you mark them, it is just important so that you know where to file your items.
Also, keep in mind that not everyone will need all of these sections, so modify it as you see fit. Here are the sections I would recommend:
- Income (include any pay stubs or check stubs)
- Expenses (small business owners will use this)
- Mileage (receipts or details from deductible mileage)
- Bank Statements
- Credit Card and any other Statements
- Reports (income or expense reports)
- Receipts (other than those used for taxes)
As these items come into your household, simply file them into the right plastic sleeve. Once you reconcile your bank statement, you can file it away, and you are through with it. When you get paid, place your paycheck stub or statement into that sleeve. Keep your receipts from the stores where you shop in those sleeves. Now, when you need any of these items for any reason, you can very quickly and easily find it — right in the month where it occurred!
If you happen to run any sort of a business out of your home and do not utilize specific tax software for tracking, it is also important you keep tabs on your income and expenses all year long. I’ve set up a template for you to check out. If you choose to use it, just simply save a copy over to your own Google Docs and you can then edit it as you see fit. Once a month, reconcile your statements, income and expenses and then file away your reports. You should not have to touch these again until you are filing your taxes.
Taxes: This section will remain empty most of the year. When the new year starts, you can place the tax documents you receive in the mail in a plastic sleeve (i.e., W-2, 1099s, and other items). This way, when you are ready to prepare your taxes, all of the forms are filed neatly away. In addition, set up a sleeve for any tax-deductible receipts that you may have all year long. This way, you can just file them directly into this section, and they are ready at the end of the year. You should also leave one or two empty sleeves for that year’s taxes. After they are filed, place your copies into these sleeves.
Once your taxes are filed, you are done with that year’s finances. You can file the notebook away onto a shelf and create a new one for the upcoming year, or you can pull out all of the paperwork and file it away in a box carefully labeled so you can find what you need for the next year. I personally recommend just filing the notebook away. You never know when you will need something from a prior year and if it is filed neatly in your notebook it is easier to track down there than having to search through a box of papers.
Now you can get organized with at least some of that paperwork lying around your home. Next week, we will discuss how to prepare other manuals that you can use to keep track of other paper that might be lying around your home. Nothing beats being organized and these steps are so simple that anyone can do this. Just imagine how great it will be to finally have these items organized and always right at your fingertips!