Piles of Paperwork, Organizing Tips

March 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you find yourself sorting through piles of paper at tax time, you're not alone. Knowing what to keep and what to throw away is crucial to staying on top of your finances.When Josephine Bentley-Vega was audited five years ago, she was panic stricken. For years she'd just stuffed her financial paperwork in boxes and bags.

Josephine has developed a much better system with the help of a professional organizer. Consumer Reports Greg Daugherty says a big hurdle in conquering piles of paper is that we don't throw enough out.

"You only need to save your bank statements for one year, unless you use them to prove deductions that you claim on your tax return. Otherwise it's seven years, which is the same as your tax return," said Daugherty.

You can also get rid of utility and service bills after you get the new bill. And consider going paperless.

Daugherty said, "You can avoid getting paper bills in the first place if you pay your monthly bills online."

But what about those bank deposits, credit-card receipts, and ATM records cluttering up your life?

"You can toss these scraps after checking them against your bank or credit-card statements," said Daugherty.

However, Consumer Reports says there are documents you should never throw away and that should be stored in a safe-deposit box.

Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, and vehicle titles are some examples.

When you're tossing stuff though, use a shredder so that no one can steal important information by going through your trash.

Josephine says getting organized allows her to be more productive and a lot less anxious.

Another piece of advice: Make copies of anything you store in a safe-deposit ... so that you have them on hand for easy reference.


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