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How to Free Yourself from Paper Clutter

How to Free Yourself from Paper Clutter
paper stack

    I frequently chase the dream of being paperless. But I have come to the brink of acceptance: for me, it will never be wholly achievable. You will always need some papers to actually exist in physical form. Even with the theory of a paperless office, clutter still manages to amass somewhere. Whether it’s on your desk or on your hard drive, you know if you are guilty of it. However, the time it takes to go back and streamline your filing system is overwhelming. Especially if you have let it go for a long time.

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    In a world desperate to become “paperless”, we still tend to keep everything and anything. While digital filing can eliminate the need for bulky filing cabinets for a visually pleasing office, the chaos of digital files looms on your hard drive, your external drives and however many CD’s/DVD’s you have with “stuff” on them. But whether you are attempting paperless or still using the old-fashioned method of papers in a filing cabinet, there are ways to clean up your financial documents.

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    With the new year rolling in and tax season upon us, why not set aside some time to make sure you are keeping what you really need? I have set up some guidelines for what to keep and what you can safely put in the trash bin.

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    Toss Every Month

    • ATM And bank-deposit slips, after you’ve recorded the amounts in your check register and checked them against your monthly bank statement.
    • Credit-card receipts, after you’ve checked to make sure the item appears correctly on your monthly statement.
    • Sales receipts for minor purchases, after you’ve satisfactorily used the item and if it has no warranty (and is not deductable).
    • Phone and utility bills (unless you deduct them as business expenses.)
    • Cable or other service bills can safely be tossed every month.

    Toss After One Year

    • Monthly bank and credit-card statement (if you don’t itemize deductions).
    • Monthly or quarterly brokerage and mutual-fund statements, after you’ve reconciled them with your year-end summary.
    • Monthly mortgage statements, as long as your year-end statement clearly shows the total amount you’ve paid in interest and property taxes over the course of the year.
    • Phone and utility bills (as long as you don’t have a home office, use your phone for business calls, or anticipate any need to prove long-term residency).
    • Paycheck stubs, after you’ve reconciled them with your annual W-2 or 1099 forms.

    Retain for Seven Years

    • W-2 AND 1099 forms.
    • Year-end statements from credit-card companies and banks.
    • Phone and utility bills (only if you deduct any portion for business expenses, have more than one home, or have moved within the past few years).
    • Canceled checks and receipts/statements for: annual mortgage interest and property taxes, deductible business expenses, child-care bills, out-of-pocket medical costs, or any other tax-deductible expense.

    Keep Indefinitely

    • Your annual tax returns./li>
    • Your year-end summaries from financial-services companies.
    • Confirmation slips that list the purchase price of any investments you own.
    • Home-improvement records.
    • Receipts for major purchases. (Any item whose replacement cost exceeds the deductible on your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy).
    • Beneficiary designations.

    Keeping files and papers that you don’t need just create more clutter. It leads to less productivity because you spend more time sifting through thousands of papers to find that needle in a haystack. Now that you have some guidelines, don’t you think it’s time you go through your files for a cleaner, more productive workspace?

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    Last Updated on April 3, 2019

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

    By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

    This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

    Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

    1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

    This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

    It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

    Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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    Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

    My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

    Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

    2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

    You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

    Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

    If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

    3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

    This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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    It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

    4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

    Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

    This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

    For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

    Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

    5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

    If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

    In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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    6. Get Aggressive About It

    Consider these points:

    Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

    Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

    Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

    7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

    Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

    By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    8. Keep Trying

    Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

    Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

    Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

    The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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