Are Your Finances Getting You Down? Time to Get Organized!

Are you one of the American consumers who had to pay extra fees due to a lack of good money management, then now is the time to get organized and stop wasting money on avoidable fees.

Make a Budget

When it comes to organizing your finances, you really need to create a household budget. Unfortunately, there is just no getting around this important step in organizing your finances. A budget will ensure you always know how much money you have to spend and what you can spend it on.

In addition, a budget should help you remember to pay all of your bills during the month, save for future expenses, and help you work toward establishing a rainy day or emergency fund (six months to one year of total monthly expenses is a good initial savings goal to aim for). Creating a budget is the only way to truly know whether you are living within your means or spending more money than you bring in each month.

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There are lots of different budgeting methods out there, including spreadsheets, envelope systems, and electronic budgets. No matter which method you choose to use for your household budget, you will need to begin by thinking about the amount you spend on various categories of expenses each month in order to set spending limits or to budget for each category.

These categories might include housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, eating out, entertainment, pet supplies, clothing, medical expenses, insurance, and savings. Not every household has the same monthly expenses and spending categories, so it is best to think about the unique way you spend your money each month and what your spending and saving priorities are, while also considering your household's total monthly income.

Schedule Bill Payments and Deposits

If you incurred an overdraft fee because you forgot to make a deposit or got stuck with a major late fee because you forgot to pay a bill, then you need to establish a better system for scheduling payments and deposits.

Budgeting Made Easy

With all of the electronic bill payment tools available today, there really is no good excuse for missing a payment. If you have trouble remembering payments, set up automatic payments to take at least the minimum due out of your account on time. You can always pay more than the minimum at another time during the month. Automatically paying the minimum will ensure you avoid wasting your hard-earned cash on future late fees. If you do not like paying bills electronically, then look into purchasing a bill payment folder from an office supplies store. These folders work off of a calendar and a nifty filing system for all of your bills.

Once and for all, solve the problem of potentially over-drafting your checking account because you got held up at work, forgot to stop, or left your paycheck at home. Ask the human resources department at your workplace about setting up direct deposit for your paycheck. With direct deposit, your paycheck is sent electronically to your bank account through the Federal Reserve Bank's automated clearinghouse. Once your workplace initiates the payroll transfer, you will have your deposit right away, meaning you have less chance of paying the bills before you have deposited your paycheck.

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Streamline Record Keeping

Well, organized record-keeping is key to maintaining healthy finances. Set up a thoughtful filing system which allows you to store records of the following categories:

  • health
  • bill payments
  • pay stubs
  • bank statements
  • brokerage statements
  • credit card statements
  • taxes
  •  insurance
  • loan
  • home
  • vehicles
  • major purchases
  • any other category which applies to your personal or small business's finances.

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the paperwork, consider storing some of your records electronically. You can sign up for e-statements and even pay bills electronically to relieve some of the filing burden. Receipt scanners are also a great way to store financial records on a secure cloud storage site or an external hard drive.

Although everyone's personal and business financial situation can affect the amount of time required for retaining financial records, a good rule of thumb is to hang onto personal documents for at least seven years for tax purposes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has three years after your filing date to audit your tax return. If they suspect you underreported income by at least 25%, they can audit for at least six years from your filing date. If fraud is suspected, then your tax return could face an audit anytime in the future, regardless of the amount of time which has passed. For a complete financial record retention schedule, take a look at the IRS guidelines.

person in front of laptopTrack Your Spending and Saving Electronically

Although taking steps to organize your finances can feel like a lot of work initially, once you get organized, you will not believe you ever managed your money any other way. You will save by avoiding unnecessary fees and be conscientious about your spending habits in a way that would not have been possible before. Start organizing your finances one step at a time, beginning with creating your household budget and filing system. It is also a good idea to discuss any major changes to your household's financial organization system with any other primary spenders and joint account holders responsible for maintaining your newly organized monthly budget.

Looking for more ways to organize your finances? For more tips and a free budgeting template, review our "If You Need A Budget, Look No Further!" eBook.

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