Organize This: Online Accounts & Bill Paying

I’m sure that just about anyone nowadays is paying most, if not all, of their bills online. I have been for a while and find that it’s been real easy for me to stay on top of my payments. I keep a list on my corkboard (above my desk, and beside my calendar) that keeps track of what day each month recurring bills are due, and approximate/exact amounts. I keep this list both for bills that are automatically debited (so there’s never any issue of not having money in my account for said bill) and for bills that vary and I manually schedule each month (i.e. cell phone). Occasionally I will also have a bill due for a retail store, such as The Limited or Ann Taylor (remember that this blog is called “Thrift Seeking” … I love those stores and shop there a handful of times throughout the year, but it’s always on the clearance rack!). I get email reminders so paying the card(s) off on time is never an issue, but since I don’t pay these bills frequently it’s always a pain to remember my user id and password.  A while ago I started using a spare notebook to jot down my user id and password for various sites:

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Obviously I am showing you a blank page so as to keep my accounts private, but you can see that there is a line down the center of the page creating two columns, which was perfect for writing my user id on one side and the password on the other. (FYI, I have no problem remember passwords, just which one is for which site. Instead of writing my passwords in entirety I wrote the first few digits or the ending digits – i.e. “ca……” or “……45”; just enough to jog my memory.) This system worked wonderfully until my notebook started filling up so much that it took several minutes to find the right account/password. After a year or so, I decided to tweak this system and make it even more efficient.

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Using Martha Stewart stick-on tabs (available at Staples), leftover from my coupon organizing project (tutorial to come), I created sections for the categories I needed most: “loans/education”, “retailers”, “professional/employment”, and “other”. Now when I need to do less frequent tasks, such as pay off my Target card or log into my account for various school districts, I can flip to that section of my notebook and find that information in almost no time. The best thing is that this system is so easily updated. I left a few blank pages in each section so there is room to expand, and I can easily create new categories down the line if needed. Using some scrapbook paper and artwork from an old calendar I also prettied up the cover in a few minutes’ time.

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Organize This: Tax Documents

This is an idea that I came up with a few years ago. It started out of convenience. I had an empty accordion file sitting unused since my college days; why not put it to use storing tax documents? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how perfect it was. Not only is all my tax information in one place and easy to transport (especially helpful since my first year filing I used my dad as a resource, and also if I would ever need to pay an accountant or firm to help me file in the future if my return gets more complicated), but there are typically 7 slots in an accordion file, or in other words, space to store 7 years of tax documents. Since you are only required to keep tax documents for 7 years, that couldn’t be more perfect. Once I run out of space, it’s a very easy and visual reminder that it’s time to shred.

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I recently “upgraded” to a pretty accordion file (the Martha Stewart line at Staples) and even attached one of her adhesive bookplates so I could label the front of it. Inside are 7 slots, and I stick a manila folder in each slot and label the year. As I get tax-related documents I can easily file them in the folder and then everything’s all together when I’m ready to sit down and complete my tax return.

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The inside is not quite pretty yet, but switching out the basic manila folders for some patterned ones and/or making the labels consistent (i.e. not a mix of label tape and handwriting) would easily solve that.

Hope that helps you get a bit more organized for tax season this year!