1. Pick a bank, any bank
I’ll confess, we have too many bank accounts. Our main chequing account is at one bank. Our RESPs are at another. My RRSPs through work are with one financial institution and my husband’s are with another. It’s too many accounts! I often see worse. Many people I meet with have multiple checking accounts. Most of these have a monthly fee. It keeps things simple if you can keep your banks and financial institutions to a minimum.
2. Keep a checklist
I keep mine in a Google spreadsheet. It’s an easy way to keep track of month end balances without having to refer to all the statements.
A lot of financial clutter comes from not knowing where everything is located. Having an up to date checklist all in one place is a simple way to keep track of your accounts.
3. Use one credit card or debit card
You can have more for emergencies or if ever you find a place that takes one and not the other. I have two credit cards, a Visa and a Mastercard but I only use the Mastercard. I have the Visa in case of emergency, if the card doesn’t work, gets lost or stolen or I find a place that doesn’t take Mastercard. The less bills due every month, the less financial clutter in your life.
4. Automate as much as you can
Every bill we pay except for the Mastercard bill is paid out automatically every month. Automatic deposits are great too. Gone are the days where I had to stand in line at the bank every payday. Now I check online on the day it’s due and there it is. Automation means the only thing you have to worry about is making sure there is enough in your account to cover the bills.
5. Out with the old
In Canada, you need to keep your tax information and tax receipts for six years. After that, it’s time to shred them. I shred the 7th year file when I place the next year’s file in the filing cabinet. You can shred old cheque books. Throw out any warranty information or manuals for things you no longer own. Now that it’s possible access Visa and Mastercard information online, I don’t even keep statements. I can print a new one if I really need it. I keep receipts in my wallet. Once a month I go through them and throw out any receipts that are past their return by date. For larger items with longer warranties, I staple the receipt to the manual and keep it in the filing cabinet. I only keep ATM slips until I confirm online that the right amount was withdrawn.
Just because we’re heading towards paperless fiances, doesn’t mean it will reduce the financial clutter in our lives. We need ways of tracking and organizing our finances so we know what we have, where it is and how to find things when we need them.
How have you reduced the financial clutter in your life?
Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).