7 Foolproof Tricks to Tame Your Paperwork

Have you seen your desk lately? Or is it buried under piles of bills, insurance statements, bank records, receipts and the user manual for that new smartphone?

You don’t have to live in such a cluttered — and flammable — situation. You just need a system for organizing and managing all that paper. Here’s how to create one:

1. Keep active information close at hand

Jat306 / Shutterstock.com
Jat306 / Shutterstock.com

Paying a late fee because you forgot the Visa bill was due is both irritating and unnecessary. If you still get paper statements, keep a file called “Bills to Be Paid” and another one called “Bills That Have Been Paid.”

Store those files where they will be easily accessible, since you will be using them every month.

Bills aren’t the only obligations that need files of their own, though. Depending on your situation, you might have folders for:

  • Health care
  • Vehicles
  • Insurance
  • Home repairs
  • Tax paperwork

Knowing where these things are can save you a lot of fruitless searching.

To further reduce the chances of you forgetting about a bill, also set up recurring electronic reminders on your phone or computer. Or set up automatic payments for bills.

2. Scan it and store it

Tiko Aramyan / Shutterstock.com
Tiko Aramyan / Shutterstock.com

Why keep all those pieces of paper? Suppose a fire destroys your home.

That’s why many people — including Money Talks News founder and CEO Stacy Johnson — scan paperwork and store it digitally. The originals can often then be shredded.

Certain pieces of paper should never be destroyed, however. Among them are:

  • Wills
  • Contracts
  • Titles
  • Deeds
  • Papers with raised seals (e.g., a birth certificate)

Scan all of these for backup, but keep the originals in a safe, fireproof location.

3. Corral your supporting documents

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

If a new appliance or gadget gives you trouble or quits working entirely, you may need to check the owner’s manual or the warranty. Can you find them easily?

Once you do locate them, start a file called “manuals/warranties.” Again, you can scan and electronically store this paperwork. With manuals, you also have the option to download them from manufacturers’ websites and save them as PDF files, avoiding the need to scan them. Then, toss the paper copies.

Also be sure to toss or delete old manuals and warranties when you get rid of an appliance or gadget.

4. Stop getting paper statements

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

There are two ways to reduce financial paper clutter:

  • Manually digitize paperwork, such as by scanning.
  • Bank and pay bills online, opting to receive electronic statements.

Most banks will allow you to set up an auto-pay system for recurring payments. Just make sure you have the funds in your account to cover the debit on the designated day. Then, after setting up a recurring payment, you generally don’t have to do anything.

This is not to say you should go without backups, though. Just save the bills or statements you want as PDF files.

5. Decide what goes where

retirement savings
Tashatuvango / Shutterstock.com

Do your child’s health records belong in a folder with yours? Or will they be filed separately? What about your auto insurance policy — in the insurance folder, or the automobile folder? Are your 401(k) statements filed under “retirement,” or with your will and life insurance papers?

Do what makes sense to you personally. Just make sure your spouse or partner knows where these things are too.

6. Clarify what you own

gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com
gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com

If you lose a bunch of stuff due to fire or burglary, will you be able to collect their full value on your homeowners or renters insurance policy? Probably not, unless you’ve regularly updated your inventory of personal belongings and backed it up.

For step-by-step guidance on how to document your belongings and their value, check out “6 Tips for Making a Home Inventory Right Now.”

7. Get tough with taxes

Christian Delbert / Shutterstock.com
Christian Delbert / Shutterstock.com

As we mentioned before, Stacy scans many documents — including his tax forms and supporting documents — for electronic storage and then shreds the originals.

Digital storage, offered by cloud-based services like Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, is so competitive that you needn’t pay a dime to store all the info you want, he says.

Do you have any great organizing tips that didn’t make this list? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Ari Cetron contributed to this post.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement
5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement

Medicare can be confusing. Beware these missteps — which can hike your costs.

20 Generic Brands That Amazon Created
20 Generic Brands That Amazon Created

Amazon’s growing collection of private brands offers everything from toilet paper and coffee to motor oil and clothing.

How to Buy a Refrigerator, Step by Step
How to Buy a Refrigerator, Step by Step

Here’s how I got the perfect appliance at the perfect price.

New Ways to Save Money on Insurance of Every Kind
New Ways to Save Money on Insurance of Every Kind

Tech startups are making it easy to find the best rates for all kinds of insurance policies — and get covered fast.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

8 Things That Are Free in August
8 Things That Are Free in August

As summer enters the home stretch, we’ve rounded up these sizzling freebies.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.