Save your first—or NEXT—$100,000!

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who’ve been there.

Get our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool: Our FREE 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on the money goals you’re working toward right now.

No, thanks
Advertising Disclosure

How I Organize My Financial Records (And Why You Should)

You may never need to go back and see how much you spent on gas in March, 2006. But what if you did? Organizing your bank statements, receipts, and tax returns can save you headaches down the road. Here are a few reasons you should organize your financial documents, and the ways I get it done.

Why Organize Financial Records?

Not only can you be a better financial planner with an organized archive of your financial documents, there a few times in life you might need those records.

If you’re not sure how long you might need to hang onto a bit of financial info, consider three years to be the minimum.

Tax Audits – Even if you cross your Ts on your tax returns, the taxman can come knocking. IRS auditors may ask to see up tax returns for the previous three years, plus supporting documentation.

Loans – When you apply for a mortgage, and occasionally other kinds of larger loans, lenders may ask for proof of your income and/or bank and investment account balances. Often, they may want to see more than just your more recent tax return. This shows lenders whether your income is steady, as windfalls such as bonuses, inheritances, or winnings might inflate a single year tax return.

Financial Aid – Applying for college financial aid often requires at least two years of tax returns and account balances.

How I Organize Financial Records

Though I am keeping more and more of my financial records electronically, I still keep hard copies of any tax-related documentation, including payment stubs for excise and property taxes. I also hang onto receipts for major purchases, warranties, auto maintenance, etc.

To organize my physical papers, I use thin folders or loose-leaf binders filled with clear plastic sheet protectors, one per document. I then label the front of each “tax returns 2001 – 2008”, “auto expenses”, etc.

The rest of my financial records are kept electronically. This includes bank statements, cleared checks, and credit card and loan statements. Every January, I export all of my statements as .CSV (comma separated value) files, which all of my banking sites allow me to do. I then drop them into designated excel worksheets, divided by account. In each file is a separate tab for each year. Finally, I burn the files to a CD and place it in a fire proof box.

And that’s it!

One thing I’m also experimenting with is the new service Shoeboxed, which scans any receipts that you mail to them (for a modest monthly fee). With their help, it’s possible my financial records will be 100 percent electronic within a year or two.

How do you organize your financial documents?

Published or updated on May 22, 2008

Want FREE help eliminating debt & saving your first (or next) $100,000?

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who've been there. Enter your email to receive our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool, our free 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on whatever money challenge you're facing right now.

We'll never spam you and offer one-click unsubscribe, always.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. I scanned in every single one of my financial documents and I only keep the ones I HAVE to keep in a hard copy.

    Thanks! I’m linking this in my next round of link love

  2. Glad to hear that you are liking Shoeboxed Receipt Mail-In! If anyone else is interested in getting their paper receipts digitized without having to do any of the scanning yourself, check out our site! I’m happy to answer any questions you have at help@team.shoeboxed.com.

    Dan Englander

  3. Speak Your Mind