6 Quick Tips for Organizing Your Finances

By Craig Ford on 16 February 2011 (Updated 13 February 2012) 9 comments
Photo: SergeyBaykov

Do you ever find it hard to juggle your personal finances? I do. I keep having this awful feeling that I’ve forgotten to pay a bill or something. Those thoughts are a clear reminder that I need to do a better job organizing my finances. (See also: Financial IQ Test: How Healthy Is Your Budget?)

In case there are others in need of financial organization, I’ve included these tips.

1. Reduce Your Total Number of Financial Accounts

Most people could only dream about a situation where there they have one bank account, one credit card, and one brokerage. We’ve developed a complicated financial system where there’s a credit card for online, one for the gas station, and one for overseas. Then there’s the bank that gives high interest, the bank that gives cash back, and the bank that has minimal fees.

All this juggling and shuffling accounts gets too complicated. Get online and reduce your total number of accounts.

2. Amalgamate Financial Accounts into One Institution

Do you have a bank account at one place, a credit card through another company, and investments with a different brokerage?

Is there a bank or financial institution that will provide all those services in one convenient location? When you’re dealing with a single entity, the process of maintaining your finances is simplified.

3. Find an Effective Financial Tracking System

No matter how much you amalgamate and reduce your accounts, there is still the issue of tracking everything. Finding simple-but-effective personal finance software will allow you to easily track all of your accounts in one place. For over a year I’ve used Moneydance, and I’ve found it helpful to see an overview of my finances in one click.

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4. Establish a Good Filing System

One of the biggest costs associated with financial disorganization comes in the form of missed payments. Just this week I found a bill on the fridge that was hiding under another piece of paper.

You can add a file for unpaid bills in your filing cabinet. However, if most of your bills are electronic, you can create a folder on your computer for unpaid bills.

One concern is that these bills might be buried, so you need to have a system for regularly checking both the physical and computer folders. You might consider setting up a computer reminder to be sure you are regularly checking the folders. So, for example, on the 10th and 20th of every month, you would open those folders and pay all those bills.

You could also consider setting up automatic payments, but there is also the danger that you might overdraw your account if you don’t properly monitor all your payments.

5. Keep a Regular Schedule

This one has been killing me lately. My wife and I used to sit down for 15-30 minutes once a week. At that time we would enter receipts into our budget, pay bills if necessary, and talk about any financial changes we need.

However, lately we’ve been out of that rut, and after a couple of weeks the pile gets so big, it’s intimidating.

Small, regular tasks are much easier that big jobs done infrequently.

6. Always Have a Notebook Handy

I have one in my car and one by my office desk. When I buy gas, I can record the information. When I think of a financial task that needs to be done, I can just jot it down to take care of at the next scheduled time to process payments.

If you’re looking for more tips, here are 28 tips for organizing your finances, how to organize your finances in four easy steps, and ten ways to organize and simplify your finances.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Computer reminders for electronic bills are great; I keep track of all my upcoming payments on my Google Calendar.

Readers, what other quick financial organization tips do you have?

Guest's picture
Guest

Keep your receipts if you don't want to do the notepad idea, but write down things that you don't get a receipt for, so all your spending is documented

Guest's picture
Chris

Consolidating all your accounts with one bank sounds like a good way to be stuck with mediocre products. As far as I know, none offers the best of everything.

Using Quicken to keep everything in one place works great. The only real drawback is the need to log in multiple places, and money not transferring immediately.

Kentin Waits's picture

Great tips -- I always find record-keeping is easier if I'm consistently purging old records when they are no longer relevant. This helps me not get overwhelmed by physical records and keep everything fairly up-to-date.

Guest's picture
Sonia

Organization is key when dealing with your finances. Knowing what has been paid and what stills needs to be paid is so crucial. Get behind on one bill, and interest rates will come back to bite you.

Now, during tax season, I feel most people are a little more organized with their finances and documents. Now if only they could translate that throughout the year they would be in much better financial shape!

Guest's picture

Getting your finances cleaned up and in order is important for a variety of reasons. If you ever want to really make great strides with your finances and ever put a retirement plan together things are really going to have to be clean.

Guest's picture
Guest

I use the excel sheet to keep track of all my credit card due dates and payments. This way, I can also check on the total amount paid for credit cards and balance for each of the cards.
Once you have been with a bank for over a certain period with good track record of payments, you can write in to request for lower interest rates.

Guest's picture
Purchase Wisely

All my electronic bills come to me in the form of an e-mail reminder. Those stay in my inbox until I pay them, then I move them to a folder. That way, I see them each time I open my e-mail and if I need to print or review one later they're all in one place.

I don't use the "automatically pay the bill from my checking account" solution due to issues a while ago when a bill was automatically paid three times and almost overdrew my account - fortunately I check my transactions online regularly!

Guest's picture
Angie

I choose credit cards that do not charge annual fees or if they do, I would always request for a waiver and they would always oblige to keep me as their customer.

Check statement dates of the credit cards and use them to make full use of the free interest time frame.

I always check on promotions like 0% on balance transfers.

Keep credit cards that offer best deals in purchases and cash backs