Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simple way to get organised

It is tax time in our house, and probably yours too. How are you going at finding all the receipts, group certificates, bank statements and the like that you need at this time?

Our organisation suddenly shows itself as adequate or not, when we are searching for the important things.
I thought I would suggest the few things I have learned about important papers and trying to keep them organised for such times:

1. Mess is attracted to horizontal surfaces. The more horizontal surfaces there are, the more places there are to stack things.

The one thing I have learned is, to make the piles of stuff appear somewhere near where they need to be. Sometimes this means moving a table away from somewhere like the front door, if everything seems to collect there, and putting it somewhere near your filing system.

2. Have somewhere to put things and put things there often. So, have a file named "tax" and when you are going through a pile on a horizontal surface, and you come across something which looks relevant, chuck it in.

A file can be :
-a large recycled envelope in a shoe box covered with fabric or paper
-a lever arch file in which you can file things in more-or-less date order
-a filing drawer in a filing cabinet

3. Try to open mail in the vicinity of your filing system. Then you can file-as-you-go.

4. If you have to transport important things like group certificates from work to home and this is the weakest link in your filing system then:
-post it to yourself
-keep a file pocket in the car and put things in there

There are two expense types we were wishing last year that we had done better at recording.

One is medical expenses. If you are over a certain threshold you can claim a deduction. So- do you think we did something sensible like keep our receipts? No, but it doesn't matter, as the pharmacist will give us a statement of expenses on prescriptions. We tend to go to quite a lot of pharmacies -so now we are wandering around collecting statements. For tax advice about this try the tax office website.
We often make donations to charities -so where are the receipts for those? Yes we had some, but I am sure we had made more donations. The hardest ones to keep track of are those donations we make when someone calls at the door and you get a tiny slip of paper...just seems to disappear.

Last year about this time I was inspired when a friend showed me her tax filing system. She has a pocket file book (you know, plastic pockets bound by a spiral. ) She had labelled each pocket with something like "Self education expenses", "medical" etc. All the receipts go into the pockets and there is even a running total in each pocket!

I told myself that "if she can do it, I can do it!" This has worked very well for us this year. My DH is even talking about getting the paperwork off to the accountant early this year 'because you have all the stuff sorted and together!"

The system is now in a lever arch file called "Tax Records" and everything I think might be useful at tax time is just punched with a double hole punch and filed in the file, with dividers to show where to put the medical expenses or the charitable donations, and some pockets for the little annoying pieces of paper.

Any suggestions of your own to add to this list of helpful strategies to keep track of everything?

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