The Four Ds
#4: Due Diligence
Now that you have a "system," all that's left to do is maintain it. For that, you need three kinds of upkeep.
1. Daily Upkeep
What is the quickest way to turn a neat closet into a messy one? Toss today's dirty clothes on the floor. Every day, when the mail comes in, open up your file box, and open the bills one by one. Write checks (by hand or electronically), deduct the amount of each check from your check register (or electronically—watch as the bank does it for you), stamp the envelope, and put it directly in the mailbox to go out the next day or on the counter with your keys so you'll remember to take it with you the next time you leave the house. Do not procrastinate and say you'll pay bills later, after you've had dinner, after you've had a glass of wine. Start this task and finish it in one swift motion.
And what's Plan B for the night that just doesn't work? The baby is crying, the dog poops on the floor, dinner...oh, heck, you can't even think about dinner. You'll be lucky if you can grab a bowl of Raisin Bran in time for the Friends rerun at 11. In that case, put all the bills that need to be filed in the same place—in your "To-Be-Paid" folder. Whatever you do, don't start separating them into separate folders. Don't put the insurance bill in the "Insurance" folder, the credit card bill in the "Credit cards" folder. You'll never see those bills again, and you'll get hit by late fees. Give yourself a break and deal with your bills as soon as you can, preferably tomorrow.
2. Intermittent Upkeep
Every time you open a new account, take out a new insurance policy, or do something else that requires record keeping, immediately make a new folder. Print a label, and figure out where the folder goes. The first thing that goes into the new folder is the contract you signed, so that if you ever need to refer to it, you know precisely where it is.
3. Annual Upkeep
Every year, after you've filed your taxes, remove last year's manila folders from the file box and place them in another set of hanging files in a filing cabinet or drawer. It is important to arrange both sets of files in the same way so that you'll know precisely where to find any document. You will even be able to tell another person where to find a particular document if needed.
Women spend an average of 55 minutes every day searching for stuff, including 8.2 minutes looking for a receipt. Now that you're organized, wouldn't you like to turn that extra hour into extra cash?
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