8 Ways to Keep Your Finances Organized

By Julia Califano · November 26, 2023 · 8 minute read

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8 Ways to Keep Your Finances Organized

You try to set goals and stay on top of your finances. But sometimes life gets in the way and throws you off your game. You forget to pay a bill or accidentally overdraw your checking account — then kick yourself for getting hit with hefty fees.

Without an organized system in place, it’s easy to lose track of what’s coming in and going out every month. People with cluttered finances are more likely to miss payments, continue poor spending habits, and save less. Disorderly bills and budgets are not only stressful but can actually help drive you deeper into debt.

Organizing your money takes a little up-front time and effort but comes with a big payoff: It can help you live within your means, pay bills on time, reach your financial goals, and build wealth over the long term. Keeping track and organizing your finances also gives you a better sense of control over your financial life.

And, it’s not that hard to do, especially if you break the process down into small, manageable steps. What follows are eight effective ways to keep your finances organized and in check.

How to Keep Your Finances Organized

Whether you’re aiming to save for a big purchase, build an emergency fund, or invest for the future, a structured approach to managing your finances can make a significant difference. The following steps can help you stay on top of your financial life and save you money in the long run.

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1. Set Some Financial Goals

Having a few clear, realistic financial goals is essential for staying organized. Knowing what you want to accomplish in the next months and years can guide your financial decisions. You can break down goals — like paying down debt, going on vacation, or putting a downpayment on a home — into smaller tasks and set deadlines to track your progress. This strategy can help motivate you to stay focused and disciplined with your finances. For example, brown bagging lunch might not feel like a pain if you have your sights set on a winter getaway to Mexico.

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2. Create a Budget and Stick to It

One of the fundamental pillars of financial organization is creating a budget. Having a basic plan for spending and saving can lead to more financial freedom and a life with a lot less stress. Start by assessing how much, on average, is coming in and going out of your checking account each month. If you find that your monthly outflows tend to equal — or exceed — your monthly inflows, you’ll need to rejigger your spending.

There are all different ways to budget — the best approach is simply the one you’ll stick to. One simple framework is the 50/30/20 budget, in which you divide your monthly take-home income into three categories, spending 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and extra debt payments. Once you have a budget in place, it’s a good idea to periodically check in and make sure you’re sticking to the plan.

3. Get Help From an App

There are a number of personal finance apps that are free to use on your phone and make it easy to organize your money. Basic budgeting apps, like Goodbudget, EveryDollar, and PocketGuard, allow you to connect with your financial accounts (including bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts), track spending, and categorize expenses so you can see where your money is going. Regularly reviewing your expenses will help you determine if you’re sticking to your budget plan, as well as identify any unnecessary costs and areas where you can cut back.

Automate Bill Payments

One way to make sure you always pay your bills on time is to automate the process. You can do this by setting up automatic payments for recurring bills, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance premiums, and loan repayments. Simply log into each account and authorize the provider to debit your checking account or charge your credit card each month. Alternatively, you can use your bank’s online bill pay service. Just be sure to keep track of the payments you have automated, so you know when to stop them or update credit cards.

5. Put Saving on Autopilot

If you wait until after you pay your bills and do all your spending to move money into savings, you may not have anything left to transfer. Why not pay yourself first? Also known as automating your savings, this organizational step ensures you are always working towards your goals.

Simply set up an automatic transfer for a set amount of money from checking into a savings account each time you get paid. It’s fine to start small — since the transfer happens every month, even small deposits can grow to a significant sum over time. If you want to earn a competitive rate and pay the lowest fees on your savings, consider storing this money in an online savings account. Thanks to reduced overhead, online banks are typically able to offer more favorable returns than national brick-and-mortar banks.

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6. Manage Mail as Soon as It Arrives

Despite living in a digital world, many important bills and documents likely still arrive in your regular mail. This might include stock statements, property tax bills, homeowners’ insurance bills, and medical bills. As a result, you’ll need a system for managing paper bills and statements. Generally, the most efficient way to deal with mail is to organize it as it comes in. You might create three “in” boxes or files labeled: “to pay,” “to file,” and “requires action.” Set a day and time each month to go through these boxes to make sure nothing gets ignored.

7. Organize Your Online Accounts

You likely have a number of online accounts — including bank and brokerage accounts, service provider accounts, and shopping accounts — each with a unique (a.k.a, hard-to-remember) password. It’s a good idea to make a list of all of your online accounts, including usernames and passwords, and keep it in a notebook stored in a safe place. Even better: Consider using a password manager tool, such as Dashlane, 1Password, or Apple’s built-in Keychain. These tools will start saving the passwords you use to log into your accounts and will automatically insert them into log-in forms. Typically, they will also generate hard-to-guess options when you sign up for new sites (no more “123456”).

Recommended: 11 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Finances

8. Make a Plan to Manage Debt

If you typically pay just the minimum on your high-interest debt, like credit cards, you are likely spending a lot on interest, while never getting ahead on your debt. Coming up with a system to knock down — and eventually eliminate — high-interest consumer debt can help you save money and make it easier to reach your financial goals.

To get a better handle on your debt, you may want to make a list of all your high-interest debts, including amounts owed and interest rate. Then focus your efforts on erasing one debt at a time while still making the minimum payment on all other debts. Where to start? You can use the debt snowball method and start with the smallest balance first, or use the debt avalanche method and pay down the highest interest debt first.

The Takeaway

If it feels like your money is all over the place and you’re living paycheck to paycheck without a plan, don’t get discouraged. You can get your financial act together one step at time.

By implementing some basic systems — like setting goals, creating a budget, automating payments and saving, and using an app that tracks your spending —- you can gain control over your finances and pave the way for a more secure financial future. Remember, financial organization is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort, but the rewards of financial stability and peace of mind are well worth it.

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How do I organize my personal household finances?

You can organize your personal finances by setting up a budget and putting some simple systems in place. You might, for example, put all of your regular bills on autopay so you don’t accidentally miss a payment and get hit with late fees. It’s also a good idea to automate savings by setting up a recurring monthly transfer from your checking account into your savings account right after you get paid.

For statements and bills that still come by regular mail, consider setting up an organization station with three in-boxes: “to pay,”“to file,” and “requires action.” Set a day and time each month to go through these boxes to make sure nothing gets ignored.

How do I organize my monthly bills?

Start by making a master list of all of your regular bills, including the provider, billing amount, and due date. To simplify payment (and avoid late payments and fees), consider setting up autopay for each bill. If you prefer to handle payments yourself, set aside a day and time each month that’s dedicated to bill paying. A structured schedule will help you meet all of your deadlines. An alternate approach is to pay each bill as soon as it comes in, then file it away.

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