Since we are so close to getting our office put together and set up (finally... a year after we moved in), I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to best organize our files. Since we have our primary residence, two rental properties, two vehicles, one child and four pets, we have a lot of paperwork that passes through our house. With the three properties, we have a lot of bills and documents that need to be filed.
After much thought, I have decided to go with an electronic filing system. I will still keep two hanging file boxes for all of the originals of our important home documents, taxes and personal documents. I came to realize that most of what I file (or lately, keep to file at a later date! ha ha) could be scanned and stored electronically and then shredded. Since I pay most of our bills online through our bank's bill pay system, I can scan and file a copy of the bill while I'm sitting down at the computer to pay it.
I found that the most helpful thing for me to do in order to organize this system electronically, was to sit down with a copy of our monthly budget and make a flow chart of how I would want the files organized on the computer. My plan is to keep my files on my hard drive and back up monthly on an external drive.
My flow chart of files looks something like this:
Electronic Filing System
Other Monthly Expenses
Rental Property #1
Rental Property #2
Under each category, I have more sub-folders. For example, under Vehicles I have two folders, one for each car. Under each individual vehicle file, I have the following folders:
Registration & Taxes
Under the Receipts folder, I will have a folder for each vendor and then under each vendor a folder for each month of the year. Receipts will be scanned and stored in order by date. If it's a major purchase, I'll also file the original receipt, just in case.
I'm sure that I will need to add other categories as I go along, or just tweak things a bit, but for now, it's nice to have the infrastructure in place to start filing electronically!