Save Time, Save Money: Tips for Paper Handling

Digging documents you need out from stacks, piles and paper sacks stowed deep within closets slows the pace of household paper handling. Try these tips to speed and organize paper chores. Get the job done fast!

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Tip #1: Do It Now

Throughout the day, paper-handling chores pop up regularly. If the job can be completed in two minutes or less, you should do it now! Clip coupons from Sunday's newspaper, dash off a thank-you note to a friend or file a receipt for tax purposes as soon as the newspaper, gift or receipt comes into your hands. Since it takes at least two minutes to retrieve postponed items, doing short jobs on the fly makes sense—and it saves you time.

Tip #2: Put Paperwork in Its Place

Information Central features an in-and-out tray or action file, so use it! Whenever paperwork comes to hand—whether it's upon returning from work or when you're bringing in the mail—put the paperwork in its place. This way, you'll always know exactly where to find the bills when it's time to pay them.

Tip #3: Toss the Trash

Dispose of any unneeded paper immediately. Ditch junk mail and unwanted catalogs as you sort through the day's mail, toss supermarket flyers and unneeded receipts as you remove them from a handbag and get rid of extra memos as you empty a briefcase. The sooner stray paper hits the bottom of the trash can, the better. Remember to shred any mail that is information sensitive, such as unsolicited credit card applications with your name and address ready printed.

Tip #4: Tag It

Sticky notes light the way when paper-related issues can't be resolved right away. If a catalog company sends a broken item, use a sticky note to track phone calls to the company and other actions taken to resolve the matter. The sticky note reminds you of the current status as you work out the problem.

Tip #5: File It Fast, File It Right

A "To File" folder is an invitation to chaos; week-by-week, its contents swell out of all proportion, leading to a long, weary session of catch-up filing. Stay on top of filing chores and file receipts, paycheck stubs, insurance paperwork and tax records the first time you handle them. The extra second won't be noticed at that end, and will prevent filing gridlock.

Tip #6: Stay Stocked Up on Mailing Supplies

New technology makes it easier to keep the household supplied with stamps—because nothing is more frustrating that having to end a bill-paying session with an unplanned trip to the post office. Investigate stamps-by-mail service from the United States Postal Service or Canada Post. The United States Postal Service, for example, will deliver stamps and mailing supplies to your mailbox, and online mailing options now include buying and printing postage labels from your home computer, and scheduled pick-up for packages and parcels.

Tip #7: Schedule Paper-Handling Chores Regularly

Schedule banking, bill paying and tax chores to keep them from overwhelming you—or costing money in the form of late payment charges. Set aside a weekend day early in the year to assemble tax information and prepare tax forms. Waiting until the last minute costs money, time and stress.

Tip #8: Create a Chuck-it Bucket

A quick and dirty way to help with filing paperwork is to create a Chuck-it Bucket. Designate a single cardboard box for records to receive any paper that you know should be thrown out, but which gives your hoarding anxiety meter a good shove. Dump all of the above into the Chuck-it Bucket as you file. Six weeks from now, dump the contents of the box into the trash bin. No looking, no sorting, no peeking. If you haven't needed that catalog in a month or so, you'll never need it again—so toss the whole mess out.

Tip #9: Buy an Electronic Labeler

For a quick way to label files, invest in an electronic labeler. These small keyboard-driven machines print neat, perfect labels one at a time, and they're a boon to anyone who wants to have easy-to-find files. Make a mistake on a file label? Easy—just print a new one. Need to re-label a file? It's as simple as type, print and stick.

Tip #10: Make Friends With Your Files

Filing is the bedraggled stepchild of home office chores—yet doing it promptly pays off a hundred-fold when it comes time to find Duff's vet records or a receipt for a returned gift. Bulging "To File" folders are the enemies of an organized home office, so complete each session of paper chores with a brief filing session. Tuck receipts, pay stubs, utility bills and credit card statements into their respective file folders. Filing "to the back," placing each new paper behind previous ones, makes it easy to drop new items into their proper place.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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