When you graduate college, adulthood tends to hit you all at once and you’ve probably got the financial documents to prove it. If you’re like most recent grads, the piles of paperwork on your coffee table may include some late bills, your diploma and more receipts than you know what to do with.
It’s best to hold onto these documents, however, without an organizational system in place, they quickly turn into stress-inducing clutter. Fortunately, getting organized only takes an hour or two and it’s worth the mental release.
In this article, we’ll show you how to create a finance binder in just 3 steps.
1. Get your stuff together.
Literally, compile any financial papers you can find and start sorting them by category. Next, purchase the supplies you’ll need. This includes:
- Binder. Opt for a thick, durable variety since you’ll want it to last. Try to find at least a 2” binder so there’s plenty of room for your documents.
- 3-hole punch. To store your papers in your binder, you’ll first need to 3-hole punch them.
- Tab dividers. Look for good quality dividers, ideally with pockets. You’ll also need a pen or permanent marker to label them.
If finances aren’t your thing, consider personalizing your finance binder with scrapbooking paper, printables, stickers or a color-coordinated theme to spice it up.
2. Make your game plan.
It’s up to you how you want to organize your binder. Here’s one strategy you might consider:
- Tab 1 – Budget. Your finance binder is a great place to store your budget and any monetary goals.
- Tab 2 – Income. This section is for keeping track of pay stubs and bonuses. If you’ve got a side hustle, also add your self-employment income statements.
- Tab 3 – Expenses. Put your incoming (paid) bills here. It’s helpful to save these in case you need to reference them.
- Tab 4 – Debt Management. Use this for your student loans, mortgage, credit card information and any additional lines of credit. Also incorporate your debt payoff tracker here if you choose to use one.
- Tab 5 – Taxes. This section is for income taxes and property taxes. Around April 15th of next year, you’ll be glad you stayed on top of these.
- Tab 6 – Savings and Investing. Include documents like bank statements and retirement account information here.
- Tab 7 – Receipts. Store any receipts, warranties or coupons here in case you need them later on.
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3. Adjust as needed.
Each situation is unique, so as you go, you’ll figure out what works best. Consider adding or removing categories, sorting them by date or adding a Notes page to each section. Additionally, setting your bills to autopay saves you a step each month and ensures you never miss a payment.
Also, since your finance binder contains personal information, it’s best to keep it in a safe, hidden place. Unless you explicitly trust your roommates and never have houseguests, your private documents shouldn’t be left out in the open.
Remember to continue utilizing your finance binder as you receive additional paperwork. Happy organizing!