You probably think you have no idea how to sort and organize your finances. But in fact, you have a very good model. You know how to clean a closet. And you are going to use the very same skills to get your financial paperwork in tip-top shape.
In this exercise, a file box with a carry-handle becomes your closet. If you don't have one, you can pick one up at any office supply store and many drugstores. If you'd prefer not to spend the money, that's okay. You can use a filing cabinet or a drawer that can accept hanging folders. My preference is for the box, though, because it's portable. If you want to pay bills on your wireless laptop while sitting outside on your back porch, you can tote the box with you. If you need to visit your accountant, you can take it along so that you'll be able to answer any of his or her questions. Once you have the box, here's what you need to do.

Get the Right Stuff
When you clean your closet, you need to have the right hangers for pants, sweaters, suits, and so forth. When you organize your finances, you need office supplies.
  • Hanging folders (Note: If you are married, get hanging folders in three different colors so that you can see quickly what's yours, what's mine, and what's ours.)
  • Sharpie markers (if you have neat handwriting) or a label maker (if you don't)
  • Manila folders
  • Stamps and envelopes (so you're not always wasting time scrounging for postal supplies)
  • Post-it notes
  • Letter opener (to avoid paper cuts)
  • Stapler
  • Calculator
  • Pens and pencils
Next: How to put the box to use
Reprinted from Make Money, Not Excuses by Jean Chatzky with permission from Crown Business, a division of Random House, Inc. Copyright © 2006 by Jean Chatzky.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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