Organize a Home Filing System
Constance Kratzer, Family Resource Management Specialist
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University
An organized filing system is essential to good record keeping. Haven’t we all experienced the frustration of not being able to find some important paper?
Stuffing papers in the kitchen drawer or hall closet can be classified as records-keeping, but obviously it is not the best system. The amount of time spent developing an orderly system for keeping your personal and financial records will be well spent and need not be difficult. Consider it a creative task.
There are many benefits to an organized filing system:
- Other family members can find documents.
- Records are available for income tax preparation.
- It saves time and money in processing insurance claims.
- Records may be needed in legal matters, such as divorces, law suits, estate settlements or tax audits.
- Records may be needed on short notice in case of an accident, illness or other emergency.
- Systematic record-keeping aids in financial planning for matters, such as preparing wills, net worth statements, investments and retirement plans.
An elaborate office is not necessary. Many reasonably priced items on the market, such as portable metal file boxes, ledger books and inexpensive filing cabinets, simplify record keeping. Even sturdy paper cartons can be used to hold file folders. Old records can be boxed and stored in the attic or garage. Keep current records where they will be safe and convenient to use in your home.
Some items listed should go in a safety deposit box. However, you may want a file folder with related items or correspondence even though the main documents are in the safety deposit box. Put irreplaceable documents in safety deposit with others that would be costly or time-consuming to replace. Examples are mortgages, deeds, stock certificates, some contracts, an inventory of household goods, one copy of your will, and divorce papers. Negotiable securities or bonds that could be cashed by someone else should always go in the safety deposit box. Keep a list at home of the contents of the safety deposit box.
Some suggested categories and headings for filing systems are listed below. It is not intended to be a complete list. You may not want a separate file folder for all items listed. This list is intended as a guideline that you can adapt to your needs. You may wish to consolidate some of the suggested items, use different headings or groupings, and include other items. For example, you may want a divider for insurance or you may want to file insurance papers under separate headings of “auto,” “home” or “health.”
Guide to Files
Christmas card list
Personal care appliances
Real estate investments
|Autos and Vehicles
Net worth statement
Records of earnings
Records of expenditures
Credit card numbers
Property tax records
Receipts and paid bills
Safety deposit box
(list of contents)
Lease and rent payments
(second copy in safety
Wills, copy of
(related to tax)
Current year information
Crafts or hobbies
Others of interest to you
Retirement or pension plans
Social security records
Originally written by Jackie Martin, Extension Family Finance Specialist
To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences on the World Wide Web at aces.nmsu.edu.
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Revised and electronically distributed March 2003, Las Cruces, NM.