Record Keeping | Keep Your Records in Order
Record Keeping - Keep Your Records in Order
Take some time to answer these questions about your V.I.P. (Very Important Papers). Answer 'Yes' or 'No' to each of them.
- Can you instantly locate last years income tax return?
- Do you know where your original Social Security card is?
- Do you have receipts and canceled checks to document last years tax return?
- Do you have the account numbers, address and phone number of all the credit cards in your wallet written down somewhere?
- Could a non-family member locate important information about what to do in case of an emergency or in the event of your death?
- Do you know where to find the insurance policy for your car?
- Where do you keep the warranties for your home appliances?
If your house and its contents burned, could you provide your insurance agent with an accurate list of all the household goods to settle your claim? How about proof of purchase for costly items?
If you answered "No" to 2 or more of these questions, it's time to make some changes in your record keeping habits NOW !!
Importance of record keeping
Keeping records may not be enjoyable to you, but it is necessary. Having a good system for keeping important papers can save time, money and effort. Other benefits provided by organized record keeping are:
- Makes it easier to find information on a day to day basis.
- Provides security for hard to replace important documents.
- Provides proof of any transactions.
- Helps in handling various emergency situations.
- Makes it easier for someone else to locate important papers.
- To prove ownership in a lawsuit, inheritance or property fight.
- For property settlement in a divorce.
- Mastering Your Records
The best system for record keeping will vary from family to family. Certain decisions need to be made before setting up a system or improving on an old one.
- Decide on one place to keep all of your records. You need an organized system of some sort. Just tossing old receipts into a shoebox isn't enough.
- Decide which family member will have the major responsibility for doing the record keeping. However, everyone in the family should also cooperate and understand how the system works. Spouses might switch places once a year to be sure each other knows just what is going on with the records.
- Set a specific time to handle all of your bookkeeping and try to stick to it. If you establish a regular routine, it can cut down on the actual time you need to spend doing the record keeping.
Where To Keep Records
A Safe Deposit Box: There are some records and belongings which are costly and may be hard or even impossible to replace. Preferably, these should be kept in a safe deposit box at the bank. Another option might be a fireproof safe or filing cabinet in your home. ( Unfortunately, few of these are truly "fireproof" or "theft-proof". )
Some of these important papers are: car titles, birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills etc.
Current Records: You will need a temporary "keeping place" such as a cardboard box or file folders to keep receipts, paid bills, and notes of non-receipt cash payments such as gasoline etc. You may want also want to write these sorts of things in a home account book or some other sort of record of household expenses sheet. Both of these items are available at your local Extension office.
Permanent Files: At the end of each year, clear out your current files. Tax time is usually the most convenient time to do this. Throw away items which are no longer of any value. (Ex: sales receipts for groceries) You should have already recorded them on your expenses sheet or in the home account book.
Any important papers should be moved to your permanent filing system. As you look for items you need at tax time, throw out the things you no longer need. Transfer items you might need in the future to your permanent files. Items such as tax returns and bank statements are an example. For more information about documents to keep in your files, an extra fact sheet on this topic is included with this lesson.
Setting up a household filing system does take a bit of time. There is really no "right" or " wrong" way to do it. Every household has different situations it has to face. So, you may need to experiment a bit before you find the system which fits your needs best.