When people think about accumulating greater financial wealth, they usually think of beating the stock market, making millions from an invention or building a very successful entrepreneurial dream.

The problem with this is that the dream starts at the END of a financial accumulation process, and one never considers the small, incremental steps needed to attain greater wealth.

This ignores the importance of getting financial clear and organized even when you don’t feel like you have anything worth paying attention to!

Financial Organization Doesn’t Have To Be Laborious

I believe that it’s possible to overhaul and improve your financial organization system in a month to six weeks; that if you do a little bit at a time, eventually you’ll have a system that only needs an hour monthly at most to maintain, AND you’ll be able to lay your hands on any potentially significant financial document within moments of needing it.

Think of it this way:  are you treating your finances like they are a beat up old junker of a car and ignoring basic maintenance?  Are you feeling unwilling to put the slightest effort into keeping it clean or organized?  Does the back seat look like a trash bin?

OR: are you treating your finances like an Alfa Romeo?  Are you keeping them clean, organized, spotless and feel excited to stay current with upkeep because you're so proud?

Unlike cars, your money CAN change its form into something more rewarding than it currently is.  If you start treating your money like it's already important--even if you don't have as much as you want--you'll be surprised at the changes that come about.

Organizational Tools To Get The Job Done

I think half the fun of getting organized is going to the office supply store and choosing the file storage I like best!  I’m not going to constrain you by giving you a specific product, but I’ll show you mine and explain why I chose it.

First Thing To Buy:  3 Standing Files

This is an expanding file with specific features:

  • At least 12 tabs so I can label them by month and I don’t have to get TOO obsessive and have a category for every single bill I pay (like my mother used to do)
  • Portable – I can file and organize while I watch TV
  • Separate – from other filing so I KNOW this is financial stuff
  • Stands Up by itself so I can use both hands to organize paper (I clip back the flap cover so it doesn’t get in the way as I work)

You’re going to need two of these; one for monthly documents and the other for annual and ongoing history/ statements—so the second one you get will maintain documents year over year, whereas the former will simply be a holding place for the rest.

Seconds Thing To Buy: 2 physical “In” Boxes

You’ll need a place to park two sets of documents:  regular monthly bills and “ongoing” documents.

But What About Paperless?

I admit, I am half in, half out of the paperless world.  If I get a physical bill, I hang onto it, even if I pay it online.  I download almost all statements every three months—it’s rare for me to get snail mail statements anymore!  Therefore, MOST of my stuff is filed on my computer, and I scan periodically to get the rest there.

HOWEVER:  I don’t scan every week, and so I need a receptacle to store paper until it gets to the scanner.  That way, things don’t pile up just because I haven’t gotten around to scanning for a few months.

If you DON’T have an autofeed scanner—if you have to place every single piece of paper face down on the scanner, instead of just loading multiple sheets into a feeder—STAY WITH A PAPER SYSTEM FOR NOW.

One of your inboxes and one of your standing files will be to store bills as you pay them every month.  The other inbox and standing file will be to store anything that is not a bill—statements and health insurance data that comes through the mail.

In the coming weeks I’ll be helping you become more financial organized by giving you small, incremental steps over 6 weeks; read more about this week’s steps here.  I’ll be going into much more detail about what each file and inbox holds and how to process your mail and paperwork.  But for now, your takeaway should be this:  the first step in becoming more organized and aware is to have the proper tools!

Author's Bio: 

Mindy Crary (MBA, CFP® practitioner and financial coach at Creative Money) helps you become a lot more educated (never inundated) about not just your money — but the whackjob behind it. Sign up for the detailed, complete financial organization series at Creative Money.