Everything You Need to Know to Organize Finances in 2021

Repeat after me: “Everything in my life has a place.”

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I’ll be frank. I’ve been trying to be debt free for years and it still hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried side hustling, budgeting, the snowball method and even a little couponing.  Plus, we all know the pandemic didn’t necessarily help matters much. After all that, my student loan debt is still alive and well. Yes, I know this whole thing is a process and it takes time to get the results I want but I knew something was off. After thinking about it, I realized It had nothing to do with my focus and motivation and everything to do with my system. I didn’t have one. My husband and I didn’t have a system for organizing our finances. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from shows like The Profit and Shark Tank, it’s that if you don’t organize finances, you are destined for failure. And no, only having a budget isn’t enough, but it’s a start.

That saying, “everything in its place” applies to finances too. You need a place to keep your bills, coupons, earned interest, savings, and more. Without it, your finances are just in constant chaos. And if you’re finances are in constant chaos you’ll have difficulty paying off debt, saving for your big vacation or reaching any other financial goals you planned. If you want to make any progress you need to organize your finances. While I’m no expert, I have stumbled upon some method in all this madness. I’m hoping this brief list will help you get on the right track. Here’s everything you need to organize finances in 2021.

financial spreadsheet
Organizing finances isn’t easy. This will help.

  1. A way to budget

I hate to say it, but having a budget is a necessity if you want your finances to be organized. How do I know? Because I went YEARS without having a budget and my finances were always a mess. All jokes aside, keeping your money in order is essential to reaching your goals and staying organized. The question is, What is the best way to do that? I’ll be honest. Creating a budget is easy. What the personal finance bloggers don’t tell you is that it’s not easy making it stick. It can take a lot of trial and error to experiment with different types of budgets. If you want to learn more about different types of budgets check out Live Broke on Purpose for budgeting with cash envelopes or The Thought Card Blog for budgeting using multiple bank accounts.

I personally love the Smart Planner Budget book. It features pages for your debt tracking, saving plans, expenses and monthly spending reviews. Plus, it includes affirmations, and you know I love a good affirmation. Regardless of what you choose, a budget is a necessity to organize finances this year.

2. A Filing system

I learned the hard way but it’s almost impossible to keep your finances organized unless you have a method for filling all those bills and receipts. And because bills seem to come in the mail daily, it will consume your life if you don’t get it handled. It took years of living in constant paper clutter but I think I finally figured it out thanks to Peter Walsh.   By simply putting all mail in piles labeled “To Handle” and “To File” I’ve cut down about 75 percent of my paper clutter and miscellaneous bills.  I got a hanging file organizer from Amazon separated for each member of the family. Each family member section has two folders – a purple one that says “to manage” and a pink one that says “to file” ( I love it because It’s so cute and matches my decor. And helps organize finances seamlessly.)  Once they get to the “to File” folder, I then put them in the appropriate section of my control binder which is separated by sections including medical bills, household bills, student loans and car maintenance. It’s a new yet simple method to my family but it’s been doing wonders in helping us organize finances thus far.

3. A method for tracking bill payments

Sure, you may have figured out how to file all the bills but it means nothing if you don’t know when any of them are due. While I love my budget organizer for this, I’m also a fan of tracking them in my phone calendar and dry erase board on the refrigerator. I got my dry erase board from 5 Below, but here’s one like it on Amazon. Keeping them listed in all these places are essential because I’ll never be blindsided by an overlooked bill. When due dates are posted in multiple locations you are less likely to forget. And because seeing bills everywhere you turn in your house can be depressing, make sure you have something equally uplifting around your home like my list of money mantras.

Additionally, you’ll need a spreadsheet of some kind to list account numbers and actual reference numbers in the event the billing company screws up a payment or loses track of it. Again, I love the smart budget planner for this, but you can also create your own spreadsheet on excel.

4. A spot for checks, coupons and receipts

I hate to admit this but my disorganization has caused me to lose checks on more than one occasion. A few weeks ago I just happened to find a misplaced check for $331 that I forgot about. As a freelancer, I don’t get direct deposit so I have checks floating in at random times. I know that’s not always common,  but it’s important to have a place for checks if it does happen. Not to mention, there always seem to be random coupons and receipts floating around the home. I got these magnetic pockets that I keep on the refrigerator to store all my checks, coupons and receipts and they’re a big help. It may not seem like it, but all three are a big part of financial organization. Plus, I don’t believe in tossing coupons. It’s like throwing away money.

These magnetic pockets from the Dollar Tree are perfect for small pieces of papers like checks, receipts, and coupons. Perfect for organizing finances!

5. A savings strategy

By now, most of you know the importance of paying yourself first. However, most people don’t know how to go about it. Will you be giving yourself $50 a month, $10 a week or $15 dollars biweekly? Regardless of the purpose, you need a savings strategy to keep your money organized. You can get ideas for money saving strategies here.

6. A date

Finally, you need to set a date to review everything listed. Having bill trackers, file organizers, budgets and saving method means nothing if you aren’t consistently reviewing everything. I aim to review and go over the things I organized around the 1st and 15th of every month. If I didn’t, my files will just be a massive disorganized mess of a pile up. Make sure you tend to your files and systems routinely to keep everything in order.

I’m no expert, so I’m sure there’s much more to organizing finances. However, this is what’s helped me thus far. Regardless, I hope this is a great start to your journey to organize finances.

What did I miss? How do you organize your finances?

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  1. I love all that you covered in being organized with finances. With our finances I first designed some forms in Excel for tracking expenses for the year, one for the monthly expenses by category, to track purchases that were not budgeted for & why, price list of items that we purchase, & a monthly income & expense sheet that list our bills with due dates & income and what we put away for expenses that are due annually and every three months & expenses. I have set up a binder that we keep the bills in, Amazon Orders, and all the forms that I have designed. The monthly forms are taken out of the binder and filed in file folders. I wrote instructions on all that needs to be done with our finances. After a few years my husband took over the finances and he knew exactly what to do because of the instructions that I wrote which are kept in the binder. It took a lot to set up the system & it still takes time. It was and is worth it.

  2. Everything is done online but I like the idea of the filing system because there are just certain papers everyone should be able to get to and know where they are in the event of an emergency. Great tips! Xoxo, Leslie SobeSavvy.com , @SobeSavvy

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