Keeping Record & Filing Straight

I’m curious, folks, how you organize and move your financial records and important papers.  Over the years, my filing system has evolved from file folders, to an accordion file, to a mixture of each, then back to file folders.  They have all been adequate, but nothing has been great.  I think that the problem is that some files only need space for a few pieces of paper, and other files require subfiles and stacks of documents.

Right now, I’m working on a file folder/binder hybrid:  smaller stuff goes in the file folder, more complicated things (like taxes) get binders (with color coded tabs and printed out labels, I am an office supply geek.).  I love binders but they are not the right tool for everything.  I also have a box for receipts.  In theory, they get sorted through and filed in a small coupon-type file envelope but really they just usually stay in the box.

Then we reached the move, and I couldn’t decide what needed to go with me and what could be packed in our household goods.  Because we were not driving, I couldn’t just throw my file box in the car like I usually would.  I ended up taking a separate suitcase with our most recent tax documents and important documents like birth certificates and passports.  I had my mother-in-law take all the documents relating to our houses, like deeds and mortgage releases, home to be kept safe at her house.

I’m curious what methods y’all use to store your papers, what you hand-carry and what you let be packed, and how you deal with papers and moving.  As I sit here facing my suitcase o’ papers, I think that there has got to be a better way.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • We just came off a move and I’m having a hard time getting back into our finances mainly because everything feels so disorganized. We’ve done the receipts in the box but it’s no fun trying to tame that animal because we don’t deal with it until it’s overflowing many times (the plan is to file those receipts in the appropriate category file folders which are in a month folder – when the month is finished, those files are cleaned out and contents are pooled together and left in that months folders and then the category folders move to the next month. I think the system would be good if I had the discipline to maintain it better.)

    Anyway, this past weekend I bought a green cloth accordion style organizer Real Simple has made. It’s probably intended for coupons but it also has two little window pockets. I’ve put my debit card and drivers license in those and have labeled the accordion slots with my receipt categories. I’m essentially replacing my wallet with this thing I guess. I’ve also added (after sorting and throwing some out) all of my affiliate and reward program cards in the back of it so I always have them.

    My hope is that by filing a receipt right after a purchase, I’ll be able to avoid the receipt black hole of a box and be more on top of it. That’s my hope anyway!

    Good post! Thanks!