As this year draws to a close, it’s a good time to spend a few minutes organizing your finances. By focusing a little energy on your financial files and paperwork with these five easy tips, you can set yourself up for success in the New Year.
Create a Tax Folder.
If you do not already have a dedicated location for tax-related paperwork, now is the time to create one. Since most of us only need to collect a handful of forms such as 1099s, W2s and tax donation letters, a simple folder marked “Taxes 2015” is sufficient. Put this folder where you go through your mail. As the forms arrive, either in the mail or electronically, place them in this folder. When the time comes to file your taxes, everything will be in one central location. Go ahead and get a jump on next year and create a “Taxes 2016” file, too.
Purge Your Files.
Get a fresh start on the New Year by taking some time to clean out that filing cabinet. After all, it is very hard to file new paperwork or find an important document when the file drawers are chock full of old, outdated files. Experts believe that once a piece of paper goes into a file, there is only a 20 percent chance we will ever look at it again. So take the time to purge those files. If this is overwhelming, just spend five minutes at a time or work on just one folder to get started. Consult a paper retention guide like this one for suggestions on what to keep and what to toss. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, so be sure to consult your tax expert for their advice.
Declutter Your Home.
Yes, decluttering your home can help your finances. Go around your house and gather clothes and other household items that you no longer need, and donate them to your favorite charity. Keep a list of all the items you are donating and be sure to get a receipt when you drop off your donations. Put this list and receipt in your taxes file (see #1) so you can use this donation as a tax deduction. If you need to know the value of the items you are donating, you can consult valuation guides like these from Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army.
Set Up Automatic Payments.
If you’ve ever missed a payment on a credit card and incurred the late payment fee, this tip is for you. Go into your credit card’s online account and set up an automatic payment for your typical minimum payment. While it is not advisable to pay your bills late, you will now at least have the minimum payment made every month, preventing that late fee and in turn helping out your credit rating. You can also set up automatic payments for other recurring charges such as your cell phone and cable bills. That’s one less thing to think about every month.
Stop the Mail.
Sometimes we may lose a bill in the mountain of incoming mail. One way to avoid this is to curb the amount of paper that comes into your home. Take a few minutes to unsubscribe from papers and magazines that you never have time to read. Use services like the Credit Industry’s Pre-Screening Opt-Out, the Direct Marketing Association and Catalog Choice to reduce the amount of junk mail that you receive. This is also a great time to stop unwanted email as well. Use the unsubscribe link to get off email lists from stores, businesses and newsletters that you no longer want to see.
By taking a little time to organize your finances now, you will have a healthier financial outlook for the new year.
For more tips to increase your financial health, watch our video The Health Benefits of Getting Organized.