Tips for tidying up your (financial) home
Is it you? Papers piled up everywhere, piles of requests for donations to charities, late notices from utility companies threatening to cut your service, credit card bills with high interest charges and penalties for default of payment? If you think I’m a psychic and am staring in a crystal ball at your dining room table or home office, rest assured I’m not. But I have been in enough homes to know that what I have just described is trite.
Failure to pay invoices is usually not due to a lack of funds but a lack of skills to get incoming mail processed on time. What you need is a countertop that meets your filing requirements to deal with the daily deluge of paper in your home. Paper or electronic filing: what will work for you? Be honest with yourself and choose one. From American Express to Xfinity, your old bills are all available online.
Start today when mail arrives by sorting it immediately while standing on top of your cross-cut shredder. If you don’t have one, buy one and put it somewhere convenient where you will use it. Your shredder will become your best friend if you reduce the volume of incoming mail by at least 80%.
Schedule time to sort the batteries just like you would for a doctor’s appointment, a haircut, or lunch with a friend. Schedule a two hour window, turn off the television, shut off your cell phone, and get to work. Keep your efforts constant – daily or weekly, depending on what works for you.
As for the myriad of charitable donation requests, think no more, tear them up! If you feel guilty about not sending money, keep in mind that you will continue to receive requests until you request to be removed from the mailing list. Skip the compelling photos and cutesy gimmicks with note cards and tote bags. You probably already have enough of these items.
Your Explanation of the advantages (or EOB) health and prescription insurance plans should be reviewed immediately so that you are 100% sure that all charges are billed correctly. There are many schools of thought on whether to hold EOBs and, if so, for how long. The best answer should come from your accountant, especially if you itemize the costs of your medical bills for your annual tax return. In the event of an ongoing illness, it is suggested that you maintain EOBs for as long as you are on treatment.
To simplify this discussion of EOBs, I recommend the following:
- If you’re computer savvy and have opened accounts on your insurance company‘s website, you can still access your EOBs online for a few years, so go ahead and shred the paper.
- If you are more paper-oriented, keep EOBs in a filing box in order of date. Be sure to review them first for clarification. There is a good chance that once dropped off you will never watch them again.
Checks not cashed – Let’s talk about that for a minute. Sometimes there are checks in the benefit explanation documents, usually hidden on the second to last or last page. This happens when you paid for an off-grid doctor’s visit on the day of service, resulting in reimbursement of a benefit from your insurer.
There are many examples of uncashed checks. Dental or pet insurance reimbursements, life insurance claims, uncashed paychecks, or overpayment reimbursements made to businesses for various reasons are a few possibilities. Once those uncashed checks are old enough, they are returned to the state you live in, creating a huge effort on your part to collect what is rightfully yours. Before you put that refund check aside for another day, avoid a lot of complications by making the deposit as soon as possible.
Finally, in preparation for your annual tax return, design a record (electronic or paper) to track your tax-deductible expenses, ranging from drugs (prescription or over-the-counter), medical supplies, and long-term care insurance. , items purchased for business purposes that are not reimbursed by your employer. Keep a master worksheet or list for each calendar year. You will find that at the end of January it is difficult to send the spreadsheet to your accountant along with your 1099 and W2.
All it takes is a vision, a plan, time and consistency. You can do it.
Happy fall organization!
Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and proud to be a member of the National Association of Organizational and Productivity Professionals (NAPO). Bergman is listed in the Hoarding Disorders Training and Resource Group Resource Directory. She lives in West Orange and can be contacted at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for detailed access to everything that makes Garden State great.