Tax time in Australia is officially here, and it's time to clean out the paperwork and get ready for the new financial year!
So many people absolutely hate doing paperwork, and it's often because the system they're using is way too complicated.
You don't need 40 different folders. You don't need fancy apps to photograph everything. And you SO don't need fussy little color coding systems.
It's paperwork - not rocket science! In my non-blogging life, I manage the accounts for about ten different companies - including ours - and mountains of paperwork is my everyday reality. The key to it is having a system that is simple.
Now I love great tech and new platforms and apps, but when it comes to paperwork, I'm all about old school simplicity. Because it works. I can put my hands on any piece of paper that's come in over the last two years in seconds. Seriously.
So today I thought I'd share my super easy filing and paper management system. This is a really general one that works for everyone, and at the end I'll add a few of my tips for small business (just remember though, I'm not an accountant!). All you'll need is a folder, your planner, your printer, hole punch and stapler, and maybe some sticky notes.
8 Steps to Organizing Your Paperwork
1. HAVE AN INBOX
Or an in-tray, a basket or just a dedicated spot where you dump mail, invoices, receipts etc when they come in. Make sure the whole family knows about it too!
2. BIN WHAT YOU CAN
When it's time to go through it all - once a fortnight/month - do it over the bin. Junk mail and advertising go straight in, and if you open all the envelopes as you go, they can go straight in the bin too.
Print out any invoices and receipts you receive via email, and add them to your pile.
Sort everything into three piles - Bills to Pay, Correspondence to File, and Stuff to Follow Up.
5. FOLLOW UP STUFF
Anything in this pile that takes 5 minutes, do now, then add it to your Correspondence to File. For everything else, add it to your planner to action on a specific day, or add it to your to-do list. I leave the papers in my planner for reference later (and when they're done I put them back in my Inbox to file next time!)
Go through and note any dates/info you'll need to remember in your planner, then sort them all by date, hole punch, staple and file in your folder. I staple small store receipts to a blank piece of paper (so they don't get lost amongst the bigger papers), and then file them as usual. If I have heaps, I put them in an envelope, hole punch it and file as usual.
7. BILLS TO PAY
Go through your bills and pay them! I like to use my Expenses printable as a cover sheet - it makes things really easy to find as there's a list summary for what you've paid each fortnight/month. You can find them here on Etsy. Make sure you write the date paid on each invoice, and the method or account if you use more than one - if a payment is ever queried, this makes it easy to trace. Then just stack them all together, put the coversheet on top, staple, holepunch, and file in your binder.
NB: If paying all those invoices just isn't going to happen today, leave the unpaid ones in your inbox, and file the rest.
8. STICKY NOTES
These are optional, but I often use them for those few, really important things I know I'm going to need to refer to - generally correspondence like PAYG Payment Summaries (group certificates), insurance policies, contracts - basically important tax stuff and membership info. You can also staple them to the front of your folder if it's a paper one!
And that's it! You should now be all organized! How easy was that!
This is a really easy way to organize individual and family paperwork. Just keep adding layers of correspondence and bills each fortnight/month, and if you ever need to find anything, just flick back through to the correct date, and it'll be right there. Stapling things helps divide all that paperwork into sections, and if you use my expenses printable, you can easily find the right section quickly.
And don't forget to start a new folder each financial year!
Tips for Organizing Business Paperwork:
If you have a business, these are my tips for organizing your paperwork - just remember though - I'm not an accountant!
1. SEPARATE EVERYTHING
It's a must to separate business and personal paperwork, so you'll need to do the above process twice, and keep everything in separate files.
2. EXTRA FOLDERS
You will probably need an extra folder or two for all your business paperwork. For our design company, I use three folders - the Expenses one I went through above, plus one for invoices we send out, and one for all our tax data (GST spreadsheets, cashbooks, BAS etc). For other companies that only do a small number of big invoices (e.g. monthly consulting = 12 invoices), I just have everything in one file and sticky note the invoices.
Sometimes, if there's a special project happening - e.g. developing a platform or renovating a property, then a separate file for those expenses is really important as it allows you to keep an eye on your costs. And if you're doing it on behalf of a client, it allows you to invoice costs quickly.
It does depend on your business, but as with most things, the simpler you can keep it, the better.
3. IMPORTANT DATA
For our company I keep all the important stuff in one section of my planner - all the ID numbers, bank account numbers, phone numbers and memberships. I also have a page with employee details and wages calculations, superannuation details etc. I need to refer to this stuff constantly, so it's easy to have a nice little summary I can quickly refer to, rather than going through those folders all the time.
4. KEEP PAPER COPIES
I know it's 2017. And I know everything is in the cloud. But it only takes clicking one dodgy email to completely corrupt your computer and all the connected hard drives and USB's. I know this because it happened in our office earlier this year - that email apparently came from a well known power company, we thought it was for us, and then hundreds of documents were just gone. It created so many problems, and we had to refer to all the printed hard copies. So, if it's important - leases, contracts, insurance policies, assessment notices - make sure you print it - or at least email a copy to your gmail!
So there we go! I hope that helps you get organized this financial year - you'll find doing your paperwork is a breeze with this simple system :)
If you're looking for more posts on getting organized, just scroll down to the suggested posts below - and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter along the way :)