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New Mexico State University

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Organizing Household Records Can Reduce Frustration

LAS CRUCES -- The hunt for misplaced receipts, bills, bank statements and other important papers is something that most people experience at one time or another. The solution is to set up a filing system for family financial papers, said a New Mexico State University consumer education specialist.


Setting up a filing system doesn't have to be a difficult task, said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Tackle the job a little at a time. First, gather important papers and records and track down those that are missing. Throw away what you do not need and put the rest aside to be filed."

People can use a file box, an expandable envelop or even a shoe box for files, she said. Make a file for current papers and a permanent file for "old" papers. A fireproof box can protect irreplaceable papers. Important papers also can be placed in a safe deposit box with copies in home files.

"The next thing you need to do is decide what categories to use for your record-keeping system," Wright said. "Categories for your current files might include bank statements, receipts, insurance, warranties/guarantees, instruction books, and specific items such as the house and the car. Bills and other routine things should be filed by the month."

It's a good idea to encourage family members to save all receipts and important papers and put them in a central place for filing, Wright said. Assign a family member to take care of the filing or take turns. Set a regular schedule for filing papers and stick to it.

At the end of the year, transfer all important papers to the permanent file, Wright advised. All items needed for taxes can be put in a single file until after yearly taxes are completed.

"Following these simple tips ensures an effective home record and filing system," Wright said. "Keeping up with the filing system will make it easier the next time you need to find a receipt, canceled check or bill. And records will be available at tax time."