Filing Systems. Boring right…but top of mind during tax time for sure!

If you have the perfect filing system already set up, I’d love to hear from you what works for you – I know there are many people who do this well.  For anyone who could use a few pointers, keep reading and take heart!  There is an opportunity to make it easier next time. I’ll share my go to principles.

A virtual trip through Pinterest shows all manner of filing systems, complete with labels, color coding and just the right container to hold it all in.  They look great and promise to simplify your life and hey, if that is what motivates you, I’m all for it.

But back to the matter at hand.

Here it is in a nutshell – A SYSTEM WITHOUT A PROCESS DOES NOT WORK. You may have what you feel is a great filing system but if you never make the time to use it, it can be improved.

To consider:

  1. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND – If your accountant likes the receipts sorted in a certain way, set up your file folders to match. You’ll save yourself the extra step of preparing items to submit to them (and who knows, they might charge you less if it takes them less time to figure it out!)  In the same way, if you do your own taxes, pay attention to how you are asked to group and summarize information for your tax situation and build your filing structure around it.
  2. TOUCH IT ONCE – This is truly the ideal – while not always realistic, be on the lookout for ways to streamline. I used to pay bills as they came in each day but found that if I set aside one night a week to do this (PROCESS) I am more likely to take the time to file it away and be done with it. (It might be more related to the fact that I reward myself with a cup of tea and sometimes an extra treat, but you get my point!).
  3. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION – An “out of the way filing system” begs for a pile to be created until you have the time to get it there and causes at least one extra step. If you can, keeping your filing system close to where you need it – you’ll be amazed how much more efficient this can be.
  4. EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE – Be careful with the “Miscellaneous” category – it can fill up quite quickly. Try to think of enough level of detail that you can find things easily. For example, I used to put all of the kid items in one folder with their names…now I have 3 per child – documentation (birth certificate, health card, passport etc), achievements (school report cards, awards etc) and Medical – reports and test results that I made need to refer to in the future). If you or your child is into a specific sport or activity with extra documentation, you may need a few more than just these.

And last but not least remember to 5.  LOOK AHEAD – Don’t be tempted to just get things pulled out for last year’s taxes and leave a mess until next February. A small investment in time on your filing system this year will help you to save even more time next year. And we all know – saving time is the best way to have more of it.  Good Luck!