My brain and my workspace are very cluttered. I tell myself this is an acceptable behavior for someone who is juggling multiple businesses and taking advantage of great financial opportunities. But in reality, I may just be messy and scatterbrained.
Some distinct areas are very organized, like tracking my credit card application sprees , however, other areas could use some improvement. Specifically, my desk piled high with financial clutter needs some work.
Does this sound familiar? Does your desk, counter or any other flat surface used solely to collect piles of paper need some love?
Most of the time I try to organize my desk only to find it piled high with papers again in a few months. After some inspirational reading about eliminating clutter instead of organizing it, it’s time to work on eliminating the financial clutter all together!
For the important papers here’s How Long You Really Need to Keep Those Papers . For everything else it’s time to eliminate!
How to Eliminate Financial Clutter
- Purge your receipts. Take your stack of receipts and deal with them. Save important receipts for warranties, taxes or insurance purposes. Toss grocery receipts and other items that won’t be returned. You can also use Shoeboxed  to store electronic copies of your receipts.
- Discard checks from mobile deposits. If you use mobile deposit with your bank and you are keeping checks for more than seven days after your deposit… it’s time to discard the old checks!
- Eliminate duplicates. If you already have an electronic copy of a bill or statement, get rid of the paper copy. Put a stop to future statements or other mail that is a duplicate copy of electronic copies you already received in your inbox. There’s no need for duplicates to double our clutter!
- Shred first. When eliminating financial clutter with important account numbers and personally identifying information, but sure to use a shredder !
- Go paperless. I have a box of papers to scan. In fact I even bought a crazy, expensive Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner  to make scanning faster with the automatic feed and searchable PDFs. Scan the documents and move on. Better yet, go to your account online and request electronic copies eliminating the need to receive a paper copy and scan in the first place!
- Use your gift cards. Long time readers might have a few gift cards sitting around from various promotions. Look up the amount left, write it on the card, put it in your wallet and use them up. Toss the gift cards with a zero balance. If it’s an electronic gift card like the recent Amazon $10 promotion , redeem the code in your account online right away.
- Pay your bills one final time. A good way to eliminate future clutter (and a time consuming task) is to set up automatic payments for your bills. Each time you pay a bill this month, set up the current payment and automate all future payments. It’s one of the key tasks in 8 Easy Ways to Organize and Simplify Your Bills .
- Reconcile downloaded transactions. For all the Quicken  users out there, do you have transactions downloaded that you need to accept? If so, set the timer for 10 minutes and clear these out. Toss papers that correspond to these transactions once they clear.
- Submit reimbursement forms. Do you have receipts and statements piling up waiting to submit for HSA , FSA  or employer expense reimbursements? Go ahead and submit them now instead of waiting until the end of the year.
- Activate bonus offers. There’s a stack of offers on my desk (it’s starting to sound like I have a stack for everything!), like the Fidelity $100  offer. Sign up for the offer, put a follow up date in your calendar and move on. If you feel like you might need a copy of it, take a quick picture of it before you toss it.
- Follow up on completed offers. Do you keep copies of the bonus offers to make sure you remember to follow up and see if you got your bonus? Look them up right now, confirm that you received your bonus and toss.
- Eliminate anything expired. Are there papers for things you were planning to do, but never got around to it? If you missed the date, toss.
- Dispose of ATM receipts. Your withdrawals show up on your bank statement. Toss the receipts in the recycle bin.
- Deposit checks. Any checks you received in the mail waiting to be deposited? Deposit immediately and sign up for direct deposit in the future. Why am I still getting checks from Ebates ? Log in and change the setting! It took me about 10 seconds to change the setting as I wrote this!
- File supporting tax documents. If there are papers that will be used for your tax return, start a folder and collect all your tax documents in one place.
- Destroy checkbooks for closed accounts. Why do you have these? Why do I have these? Toss.
- Replace credit cards. It seems that every credit card I have (and since I have 89 accounts  there are a lot) is sending a replacement credit card with a new expiration date or a new chip. Activate the new card and shred the old one. Should I point out the irony of having 89 accounts and trying to eliminate clutter?!
- Put reminders in the calendar. There’s a stack of papers on my desk that are strictly there to remind me to do something. For example I have a letter from Saturna for our HSA reminding me to keep my account active by making a trade once per calendar year. Put these tasks on your calendar and toss the paper!
- Dispose of call log notes. Do you keep notes from customer service calls? If the issue was fixed or addressed, get rid of the post-it note or scrap of paper detailing the call. If you might need it in the future put a copy in Evernote or Dropbox.
- Get rid of just in case papers. I have a bad habit of keeping papers “just in case”. It’s time to eliminate these.
- Dump paycheck stubs. Once you get your W-2  at the end of the year, you do not need your paycheck stubs (assuming the sums match the totals). Shred.
- Let go of papers for items you no longer own. Finally, unless it is for an investment or real estate, if you no longer own the item toss any related paperwork. Receipts, manuals and warranty information for phones, computers or appliances you disposed of years ago are financial clutter. Toss.
Eliminate Financial Clutter to Make Room for More Important Financial Tasks
Eliminating the financial clutter is obviously not my strong point. However, the burden of “organizing” the growing mountain of papers makes for a cluttered space and a cluttered brain. With a clear desk and a clear mind it’s much easier to focus on big, important tasks. In the personal finance world eliminating financial clutter makes room to take advantage of larger incentives and spend time on tasks with a bigger payoff instead of spending time paying the same bill every month.
For me personally, it’s freeing up time to work on getting qualified for the Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 Point Sign Up Bonus Worth $1,500+ !
Do you need to eliminate financial clutter? What’s in your stack of papers that you need to let go of?
More Ways to Tackle Your Financial Clutter
- Quicken: The Personal Finance Tool I Use Everyday 
- Tackle Your Financial Clutter in 10 Minutes Today 
- 8 Easy Ways to Organize and Simplify Your Bills 
- How Long Do We Really Need to Keep Those Papers? 
- Do You Back Up Your Financial Data? 
- 17 Tips for End of Year Tax Planning 
- 6 Ways to Make Money Organizing Your Clutter 
- Are Automatic Payments Secretly Costing You Money?