Month: August 2020

Get Organized! Week Six

To Scan or Not to Scan?  

What documents should you scan for quick access?   Some important documents should be kept electronically on your computer and on an external hard drive for quick reference and for emergency access.  There are many documents you may not have electronically saved, that should be scanned into your electronic files.    

I love my financial binder for easy grab and go reference, and I keep many files electronically organized, but some documents should also be scanned and readily accessible for reference and emergencies.

Scanning is so easy to do today with many printers, scanners, your phone camera and scanning apps, and you might be tempted to scan all your documents and do away with a hard copy of data.   While this may be tempting, it is best to have a combination of both types of files (hard copies and electronic copies).    There are documents such as birth certificates and car titles that you must retain the physical paper.   Electronic clutter can also become a major headache, so scanning every receipt and every document would be overwhelming.  It’s also unnecessary because many receipts, documents and paperwork are never needed again.   

Three types of documents you should scan and save: 

  • A photo of everything in your lockbox (printable checklist)
  • Major purchases
  • Major household receipts and repairs

Your lockbox – contains your most important papers.   You may already have many of these documents electronically and can save them on your computer to either a file folder under your finances folder called “Important Docs” or place them in the appropriate file folder.   For example, you should have a copy of your most recent tax return in your lockbox.  Your scanned version could reside in the tax folder on your computer or the important docs folder.  

Major purchases – such as vehicles, musical instruments, real estate, etc. should be scanned and placed into the important docs file.   Keep a “major purchases” file folder inside the important docs folder for these type of receipts and name them with the item and the date purchased.   For example: “Honda Civic June 2019” or “Keyboard Oct 2011”.   This serves as two important pieces of information, item and when purchased, without even opening the receipt. 

Major household receipts and repairs – such as large appliances, interior and exterior repairs, and remodeling receipts.    For appliances, before you scan write the model and serial number on the receipt for quick reference if it is not already listed.    Having these types of files on your computer can provide multiple benefits.  If you need a repair, you can pull up the receipt and have the date of purchase, model, and serial number to report to the repairman without scrambling to find the numbers inside or behind your appliance.   We also recently saved a bundle by sending in a large remodeling receipt to our homeowner insurance company.   Because the file was already on our computer, it took just minutes to email and resulted in a savings of $700 per year on homeowner’s insurance.

Keep a copy of all these scanned documents on an external hard drive that you update once a year and store a copy off-site either in a bank safety deposit box, or with a trusted relative.    Although these are not original documents, they would help you quickly identify what documents you may need to duplicate or even to just grab policy numbers and phone numbers in a situation where you could not access original documents.  

I hope you have enjoyed this series on organizing your finances, for quick reference, link to posts you may have missed below. 


Week One:      Gather your Financial Papers

Week Two:      Create a Financial Binder

Week Three:  Organize your Files Electronically

Week Four:     Processing your Bills and Paperwork

Week Five:      Create a lockbox of important documents

Week Six:        To Scan or not to Scan?         

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Get Organized! Week Five

What’s in your Lockbox?

 Although I love my financial binder for a quick file reference, and I keep many files electronically, there are some documents that you should keep physically secure. Items such as birth certificates, social security cards, passports, wills, insurance information and your back-up hard drive should be securely tucked away in a locked, fireproof box.  

Some people keep these items in a bank security box, but there are disadvantages to having your papers offsite. One reason is accessibly. When I need my birth certificate, I don’t want to wait for the bank to open, and to have to take off work to go to my security box during banking hours.   I want to be able to grab documents when I need them.  

If you are considering keeping your documents onsite, three types of inexpensive lockboxes under $100 are below. The photos are boxes that I have at my home, but I’ve linked to a few similar items:  

Fire resistant cash box:  a simple but durable metal container with a lock.   Until very recently, my family used this type of box.   It’s small, but simple and can be tucked away in a drawer or cabinet.    Mine lost its handle along the way, but still works fine!

Small fireproof/waterproof lock box:  a sturdy fireproof and waterproof box.   Again, small and simple but a little more substantial.  For both this option and the cash box, you do need to fold most papers to fit in the box, but I’ve never had trouble doing this, and most documents are already folded when received.  

Medium size, fireproof/waterproof file lockbox box:   Fireproof and waterproof file box that accommodates letter-size hanging files and folders for easy storage.     I purchased one of these for about $60.00 at a local store and have been pleased with this hanging file format.  

In all three cases, these boxes are not safes to keep your millions, someone could pick up and take the lockbox or break the lock.   However, it is a safe place to store documents and keep them all in one central location, safe from fire and in some cases from water damage such as flooding.   

Once you choose your lockbox type, next gather and organize your documents.   I’ve created a listing of suggested items for your lockbox. Personalize it to fit your needs and what is irreplaceable to you if lost or just something you might need to get your hands on quickly.  For example, your spare set of car keys, a flashdrive of your wedding/baby photos, or a small family heirloom.   If you choose one of the smaller boxes, rubber band like items together, and use a notecard or to identify place on top before placing in the lockbox.   You can also use an envelope to group small items such as social security cards.

If you choose the medium size, file lockbox, you can organize with hanging folders and file folders, labeling each one.  

Think about your most important papers, are they all in one place and secured? If not, it’s time to create a lockbox for your home.

Up next week #6: To scan or not to scan.

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