How to organize your personal household finances

Managing financials for a household can be overwhelming, especially when you consider the amount of monthly bills, receipts, paystubs, account statements, and other essential paperwork that is received by a household on a monthly basis. It’s easy to lose track of everything you need, but a good organizing system can keep things right at your fingertips.

Start out with your household filing system. It’s helpful to have folders set up for each major category—some examples include: health, job, banking, credit cards, taxes, brokerage, home, automobiles, insurance, major purchases, and other loans. On a weekly basis, go through your received mail file and sort everything into these folders. While some items can be thrown out (after being shredded), you will need to save insurance papers, receipts for major purchases, account statements, pay stubs, health forms and anything related to your taxes. Also create a folder for the current year taxes—as you have items you’ll need in April, add them to the file so they will be easy to access come tax time.

Household bills should be filed using a separate system. Bill books, which are available in office supply stores, are a great way to keep your bills organized. Sort your bills by due date and add them to the folder of the month they are due. You can also track bills in a personal finance program, spreadsheet, or an online service.

It’s best to pay household bills on a weekly basis, although if you only have a few bills, you can pay them bi-weekly or monthly. Online bill pay systems are a great way to stay organized, save money on stamps, and get your payments cleared quickly. Otherwise, you’ll need to make sure that you write and mail your checks well in advance of the due date so that you aren’t charged a late fee.

On a regular basis, either semi-annually or annually, go through each of your folders and clear out anything that is no longer needed. If any of the folders are getting too full, separate them out by year, and store newer information in the front of your file drawer, so that it’s more accessible.

While organizing can take some time in the beginning, having all of your financial information sorted appropriately will make day to day bill paying and home financial management easier for you. 

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
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