How long do you keep monthly statement- paper clutter issues.. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 02:05 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm glad there is a forum to talk about these issues. (declutter/ lack of organization skills)
My DH and I are only good at "certain" things organized but when it comes to our house organization it needs improvement. I'm kind of in charge of our bills and paperworks but I don't know how long we are supposed to keep things like utility bills, bank statement, credit cards, phone bills etc... I know if the thing is related to tax deduction, you need to keep them for 7 years right?
I've never worked as a secretary or office person where you need to file stuff, I have no idea how to file. I kind of got to learn that you file by Alphabet but then how do you name each file? Would you name "phone bill" or "Bellsouth"/ "electric" or by the company name, kwim?
Thanks for your input...
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#2 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 10:58 AM
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Ah! The paper mountain! I'm with you! This is my job at our house too, because if it wasn't, it would all end up in the tornado on dh's desk, and we'd have no power, phone service, etc before he realized that *action* is required on some of those pesky pieces of paper. Go figure.
So, my system isn't super complicated, but it works, so I'll share and maybe you can adapt it. First of all, it's *your* system, so if alphabetic stresses you out, don't do it! We use those med-sized plastic folder type things, like this: (who knows if that link will work!), only ours cost us about 6$, not the obscene 99$ that the people at the link want. It comes with little tabs to write on and slide into the little tabs at the top of each section. We have about 12 sections in ours. Our tabs are things from "car", "house", "bills" (this is where phone, visa and electric go), "Katia tax" and "dh tax" (this is for things like payroll stubs, income tax forms, dh's business related reciepts), we also each have a "bank" section for monthly statements, ect. And, I have a "school" section (I'm still a student, so tuition and book receipts, student loan documentation, certificates, etc). We don't have any debt other than the crippling student loans for each of us, but if you did, I suppose you could make a seperate spot for those. We also have one blank section, for all the stuff you can't figure out what to do with, but you know it needs to be kept. Like, the little list I scribbled out of who sent us Christmas cards last year, so I would be sure to send them one this year, which sounds ridiculous now, but seemed like a good idea at the time. And the garden notes, like "Woman, you need to seed your tomatoes in January, not February!" We use a new folder thing each year just because they tend to be about full after a year. I put a huge label with the year on it on the outside of the folder, and chuck it in the bottom drawer of our writing desk. Eventually, the bottom drawer system will cease to work, but I figure I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. :
Good luck developing your own system.

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#3 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 11:28 AM
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I shred last months bill/statement as soon as I pay the one for the current month. With everything available on line these days, I don't see the point in keeping old stuff around.
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#4 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 12:54 PM
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We keep our old ones for a year, clean out every spring at tax time and start over. My system is much like the one listed above, and definitely NOT alphabetized! I have a folder for each bill: cell phone, cable, electric, gas, credit cards (we only have 1 so there's only one folder; I'd probably make a new one for each card if we ever had more than 1), student stuff (I'm a student too so student loan info, class stuff, etc. goes here), car payment... whatever gets paid has a folder. When I pay the bills I write on the stub the date paid, check # and file it in its appropriate folder.

However, until the bills get paid I have a big mess on my desk . I need a better system for what to do with the "in transit" stuff!
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#5 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 01:10 PM
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I've been keeping the old bills, but I will be cleaning them out soon, I agree there's no reason to keep them, since almost everything is available online now.

As for filing, I have a big filing cabinet. After I pay bills, I put each bill in the correct file folder. I have folders for the mortgage & realty taxes, utilities, one for each credit card, one for each vehicle (for maintinance records), one for houshold appliances.

Before they are paid, I keep all bills in a caddy on my kitchen wall that is designed to hold mail and keys. I pay all paper bills twice/month, when DH is paid. Online bills are paid as soon as I receive the notice that they are due.

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#6 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 06:39 PM
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It helps to understand the "why" of the paperwork. A bill, like the phone/utilities bill is just a request for payment. Each month your new bill shows if they received last months payment. Same with credit cards. Pay-throw away. Bank statements. Is it correct or even close? Throw it away. You keep your check registers and can always request a copy of a certain check. You'll know by looking at the current bill. They won't let things go for long without payment.

You need to keep paperwork which relates to the purchase of stocks. Retirement stuff like IRA's. Our brokerage accounts send us year end statements.

What you need to keep for taxes depends on your personal situation. 7 years is suggested, but there is no time limit on fraud, so as long as you are on the up and up with taxes you really don't need stuff forever. It sounds to me like you don't need to keep any of the stuff you listed.

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#7 of 13 Old 10-02-2006, 08:57 PM
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I cleaned out our file cabinet a while back and scoured the internet for advice on what to keep and how long to keep it. I created a word document with the advice. Here's the short version:

How long to keep records:

tax returns/documents: 7 years
medical insurance / bills / prescriptions: 5 years
home insurance: 5 years (10 if issues)
warranties: expiration date
home repairs / contracts: 10 years
pay stubs: 1 year
bank statements: 3 mos if applying for loan
credit card statements: 3 mos
ATM receipts: record and toss
financial documents: toss privacy notices, etc
utility bills: 3 mos
mortgage documents: 10 years

I also made notes regarding:
- keeping anything related to tax deductions that we might be able to take
- keeping one statement from closed accounts so that I have a record of what those accounts were and the fact that we closed them

I do have a few things, like medical records, that I keep for longer than the advised time. For me, my medical file helps to create a personal record and I can see exactly when I had a specific illness or got my vision checked, etc. I really should just go through it and type it all into one document, though. It would save space and stay in order better.

I think I got a lot of the info from (links to their records retention page)

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#8 of 13 Old 10-03-2006, 01:23 PM
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I have a fileing folder that I got for X~Mas a few years ago from my MIL (Yes, I did as for it, she was not implying anything, lol!) I LOVE it! It sits right on top of my fridge, and each time I get and pay the bill, I stick it in the folder. I have pocket for each bill. I think there are about 20 sections in the folder.

Fuel Oil-
Car Payments-
Van Payments-
My paystubs-
Dh's paystubs-
Erik's stuff-
Alex's stuff-(Each kids report cards, special drawings etc...)
Abby's stuff-

etc etc...

It is so much simpler to find things when I need to look back-I also like to compare bills. Hmmmm why is the electric bill 60 more this month etc...

I throw them away after a year also.
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#9 of 13 Old 01-12-2008, 05:14 PM
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Every year I am very tempted to throw away the previous
monthly statements for cable, cell phone, home phone, etc;
but I have deducted some of these things on my taxes. Since
you have to hold on to things (or s hould) for 7 years, in case
of tax audit, I find myself having to keep them.

They are colored coded and alphabetized in my garage in
storage boxes. They are labeled on the outside, for example,

A-C D-Fa, etc;

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#10 of 13 Old 01-12-2008, 05:59 PM
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If you have a business, I believe you are supposed to keep receipts related to that business for 7 years, in case "somebody" wants to audit your books.
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#11 of 13 Old 01-13-2008, 01:45 AM
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We can view almost all of our bills online, for at least one year, so we don't keep any paper bills, if we get them at all. Most of them are online billing. We also have online banking and can view those statements online. The only bills I keep are medical bills, and deductible items that can't be viewed online. If it is used for my taxes, I print it at the end of the year and add it to that tax folder. I file the year's deductible bills with my tax info, so I have 5 folders-one for each tax year. My mother the accountant told me I only need to keep that stuff 5 years, not 7, unless you are self-employed, or own a business. But you can keep 7 folders if you want.
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#12 of 13 Old 01-13-2008, 06:55 AM
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I'm normally super-organized when it comes to filing the papers, but seriously--I never get them INTO the files.

I broke down and I have no clue why, but I bought a filing "system". Well, it must've been fate because it came with a booklet that set me up so I actually manage to keep my piles GONE. It's JOYS and it's cheap (the filing system--not the binders). You actually do have to go through the steps, but it will tame the paper (and for me, the catalog and magazine) beast of the home. Organized as I was, I was fascinated by how they sorted things... it just made crazy sense: vital stuff, reference stuff, everyday stuff and information stuff. (yeah--there's a difference between reference and information). They even tell you what kind of container to put the stuff in and where in your home you should have it (not "in your bedroom" but a description of the type of place and container, and you decide where that place is in your home... kwim?)

And whatever you do, keep any title insurance documents from real estate transactions FOREVER!

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#13 of 13 Old 01-13-2008, 03:53 PM
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I just learned that by signing up for online bank statements I have access to the past 7 yrs' worth of statements. I can save them to my computer and print them. It is much better than having 7 yrs worth in a filing cabinet!! By signing up I will not receive a paper statement so lessening the paper waste is a bonus too! Good luck organizing your papers, this is what gets me into trouble too.

I am also going to keep each bill only until my next bill is received and is shown paid. To cut down on paper waste, next week I will be calling my utilites companies to see if they have an option for online bills versus receiving them in the mail. I also set up online bill pay through my bank and it makes paying the bills on time every month very easy (I tend to lose the bills I receive in the mail in one of my mounds of paper then I forget to pay)
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