Spring is the perfect time to go through your financial files and clean out all the old and unnecessary paperwork. It’s also a great time to assess your money and assets and ensure you’re on track for the future. Here are 11 tips to help you better organize your finances.
Get Your Files in Order
Getting your paperwork in order should start with a simple filing system. Buy a box of tabbed, folders and label them so you’ll have a place to save important documents and find them easily.
Throw Away Old Paperwork
Many people pile up papers and documents because they don’t want to deal with them, or they think they need to hold on to them indefinitely. Go through your home and toss old utility bills, canceled checks, receipts and bank statements that you don’t need. If you aren’t sure of their importance, contact your banks or financial services companies to find out how long they retain electronic copies of your records. The paperwork you should absolutely keep are copies of your tax returns. You want to keep these records, forever. The IRS generally audits taxes back three years, but they will go back further if a major error is found. Tax returns offer proof that you filed over the years. They will also help you prepare future tax returns.
Shred Discarded Documents
Don’t risk identity theft by simply throwing personal documents into the garbage. Make sure you shred any paperwork with identifying information on it. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, etc. Purchase a home shredder or consider a shredding service. Some options include retail office supply stores like Office Max, Staples and Office Depot. FedEx and UPS also offer to shred.
Make Electronic Copies
Scan or download electronic copies of important documents to your computer, then back them up onto an external hard drive or protected cloud storage service like Carbonite. This should be done once a year at least.
Set Up Automatic Bill Payments
Avoid late payments by setting up automatic payments each month online. Not only will this prevent late fees and keep your credit score solid, it will eliminate paperwork.
Negotiate Better Rates with Service Providers
Call your service providers, like cable or internet companies, and play some hardball. They want to keep you as a customer and they know that their competition offers deals that might lure you away. Additionally, service providers continually update package deals that you can take advantage of by simply asking.
Bolster Your Emergency Savings Account
It’s important to have enough money in savings to cover at least six months of expenses if you lose your job or something else happens to your income. Review your savings account, and add money if needed. It doesn’t hurt to increase your emergency fund every year.
Rethink Your Investment Strategies
The market often fluctuates and that can change the way you invest. Make sure you’re on the right track with your goals and shift money into more aggressive or less aggressive funds, to fit your investment strategy.
Make a Record of Your Possessions
Photograph or video possessions that you’d want to make an insurance claim for if stolen or damaged. Record the purchase amount for each item and when you purchased them. Save any receipts for proof. A free apps that can help you inventory items for insurance purposes is available from The Insurance Information Institute at https://www.iii.org/apps.
Increase Your 401(k) Contributions
If your salary goes up or you suddenly come into more money one year, consider increasing your 401(k) contributions. Just bumping your 401(k) up by 1 percent will help you save for your retirement a lot faster.
Change Your Passwords
Take the time to update old passwords to better protect your identity. Create a different password for every account that is at least eight characters long and includes a mix of numbers, cases, and special characters.