Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Tip Wednesday

For months I struggled with keeping all of the incoming and outgoing mail organized. With two kids, a part-time job and a house to run, I began to lose a grip on what once was a simple task. I thought about switching to online billing, but didn't feel like that would help at this point. I just needed something to help me get it all in order.

I had a place where I put bills and other mail that needed to be dealt with, but things began getting overlooked and I even somehow missed a couple of payments on things. One month around Christmas I missed paying 3 bills. I am nearly positive I paid them online through our checking account, but the bank showed no record and I had no way to prove I had done that. I knew that my New Year's resolution had to be to find a way to organize all of this mess. Not to mention that I had a stack of papers that I hadn't filed in a year!

I looked at different office supply stores and thought about what might help me get it all in order. I found these binders at Wal-Mart for around $5 or $6 (if I remember correctly). I counted out the number of pockets and found that there was 2 for each month. So I bought 3 and divided the year into 3 quarters. The front is clear so I slipped in the names of the month for that folder.
On the inside, I wrote the name of each month on the pocket on the right. Each "page" has a large and a small pocket. As mail comes in, I place it in the pocket on the left in the month in which that bill is due. I put receipts for our debit and credit cards in the small pocket on the left.

As the bill is paid or that mail is dealt with, I move the bill (minus the envelope and invoice slip if it's mailed) into the right pocket. If I pay the bill online, I write the confirmation number on the invoice slip and also place it in the right pocket. In the smaller pocket I put receipts that we need to keep like large purchases or medical payments. Nothing goes into the right pocket until it is ready to be filed. By the end of the month, the left, large pocket should be empty.
I made room in the front of my filing cabinet to place all three of the binders. Everything is organized by month and I can easily access when I need to. Then I can file the contents into the cabinet at the end of the quarter or whenever I get around to it - but it's not a pile of papers on my desk! Plus, it won't take me an entire day to organize and file it at the end of the year since it's already organized by month.
Another thing I like about this system is that I can grab the folder and take it with me to work to pay bills. If I'm making payments in town (as I do for several of our bills), I just grab the folder and take it along. And I don't have to dig through a pile of papers to find a receipt for a return or a paper that I need for something. After five months, this system is working very well and I've not missed making any payments or taking care of something we need.
Have a great organization tip? Post your link in the comments so we can share great ideas for keeping our homes running.


  1. This has to be one of the best tips I have ever heard for dealing with finances and other monthly mail "to dos". I have a system similar to this for my son's medical information but I was never able to figure out how to use it for our money.

  2. Great tip! I really like it! I have a pile like your before shot, sitting right next to my fridge.

  3. Stopping by from Tip Junkie. Great Idea. I need to get more organized!


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