How to Organize Financial Docs Step by Step

 In Manage Money Wisely

The Get It Together Challenge began with me sharing my Ultimate Financial Checklist so you’d know exactly which financial and legal docs you should have on hand. Next, we talked about which docs to toss and when. So now it’s only natural that we take the documents formerly scattered about your home, office or automobile and take a little time the necessary time to organize them in a systematic way. 



If you’re anything like I’ve been for the last 35 years, you may want to hang on to your paper. I get it. It’s a safety net for those of us who have a case of “But, what if one day . . . .” I’m personally beginning the process of completely going paperless. Whoosah! Wish me luck. I won’t say that I came to this decision on my own. Living bi-coastally and being constantly on an airplane has made it a necessity of life for my husband and I to share important info remotely.

Luckily I stumbled across The Paperless House by the folks over at and my plan is to literally get rid of every piece of unnecessary paper in both homes. So far I’ve purchased my new scanner and signed up for Evernote Premium to help me efficiently organize and retrieve scanned documents. My plan is to get it all done by the Fall, so I’ll update you as I begin to make significant progress.

If you’re not ready to follow me down this paperless trail, then let me break down how I’ve been doing things thus far. It’s loosely based on a system I learned when reading David Bach’s Smart Women, Finish Rich after college. Yes, I’ve basically used this method effectively for well over 13 years, so I’m entitled to a little change.   (Remember, having a true system – physical or digital – is still better than stacking mail on your kitchen counter.)


1-2 Dozen Hanging File Folders
1 Box of 25 or more File Folders (CAUTION: It’s really easy to go through 25 if you take this exercise seriously.)
1 Plastic File Tote or Small File Cabinet

1 Label Maker (this is the one I use in my home office)


(This is the first FREE printable you receive when you sign up for the Get It Together Challenge this month only. Past clients loved this checklist because it made them aware of not just what they had, but what important documents they needed to request to be up to speed on their financial affairs. )

Screenshot 2016-04-05 09.38.46Screenshot 2016-04-05 09.39.00


Legal Documents

This includes birth certificates, marriage license and social security card. Place items that are imperative to keep track of but doesn’t necessarily fall into a financial category.

Tax Returns 

I think you should save 7 years of tax returns, but place at least three file folders, one for last year, the present year, and next year. Mark the year on each folder’s tab, and put into it all of that year’s important tax documents, like W-2 forms or 1099s. If you can’t find the documents but used professional tax preparers in the past, call them and ask for back copies.

Financial Accounts

This includes 24 months of bank statements from your checking and savings account and ATM and deposit slips. If you have several accounts with no money in them, just consolidate. Don’t waste time, energy, or paper. Additionally, use this area to store information about retirement accounts (401k, TSP, IRA) and investment accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds).

Income and Assets

For recent pay stubs or copies of checks received for self-employment income. Hold on to proof of all government benefits such as social security income. Use a separate folder if you receive alimony or child support.


If you’re a homeowner, this includes mortgage statements, property tax bills, HOA documents, and other related expenses. If you’re a renter, this should contain your lease, the receipt for your security deposit, renter’s insurance policy, and the receipts for your rental payments. Don’t forget monthly electric bills and monitor them regularly

Credit Card DEBT

Create a separate file for each credit card account you have. Make sure to capitalize the word DEBT, so it stands out and bothers you every time you see it. (Prayerfully, this step does not take up all your file folders. If it does, no worries. We’ll handle that shortly.)


This may include student loans, car loans, personal loans, and the like. Each folder should contain the loan note, your statements, and payment records.


 Separate folders for each of your insurance policies, this includes car insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and the like. Remember your homeowner’s or renter’s policies should have been filed away in the Household section.

Children’s Documents

It should hold all statements and other records pertaining to any accounts they have and accounts you have for them, such as college savings. I also add a folder for #miniMoneyMaven’s child care to keep track of those expenses for tax purposes, as well as a folder with immunization records and other health-related documents needed for school.


Contains files for personal expenses such as clothing, grooming, dental services, organization dues, and the like. Create a specific folder for your medical files, such as copies of your health insurance cards, statements from your physician’s office or the hospital, and lists of necessary medications.

You might find at the end of all this that you have a few missing documents. Don’t be disappointed or frustrated by that. You can make calls to get what you need to keep your momentum going. The important thing is that you’ve taken the first step, and that’s something you should definitely be proud of! Gathering it now and implementing an organized system will save you energy, time and money in the long run. You might also discover some bill or credit discrepancies that are costing you a lot of money without you even knowing.


Hope this helps you take charge and get your finances in order!

Happy Spring Cleaning!


***NOTE: I may get a small Thank You commission from one or more of the links in this post for spreading the good news. By now, however, I hope you know me well enough to know that 1. I wouldn’t share anything with you that I didn’t use and/or believe in wholeheartedly. And, 2. I couldn’t be a good example to you on Earning More Money if I didn’t find small ways to monetize work that’s helping thousands of women and families for 100% FREE.

Patrice C. Washington

Patrice C. Washington

Known online as the Wisdom & Wealth Money Maven, Patrice C. Washington is author of the personal finance series, Real Money Answers, as well as creator of The Mindset + Money Master Class, a step-by-step formula to help you create the money mindset and skill set necessary for lasting personal finance success.
Patrice C. Washington
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  • Lisa Williams

    I have started the journey of going paperless. It has made my life easier; but it is not an easy road to travel. What I mean, I am old school as well and holding on to the papers made me feel safe. When I first started my journey, I had to laugh at the receipts I could not read. I quickly realized my safety net just went out of the window.

    I truly need to thank you for Real Money Answers For Women book. It has been a tremendous blessing for me. I am the CEO of my life and I love it.

  • Joycelyn Scott

    pretty much got all this in order, I am a paper person, so now I can throw some stuff away , no shred…. great info…. sista Patrice

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