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Fall into savings.

Organizing your financial records can help you save.

The last few days of summer are giving way to changing leaves, apples and crisp fall air. Changing seasons are a natural time for cleaning house – so why not also take a look at your finances too? Clearing the financial clutter will help you keep better track of your money and information so it's ready whenever you need it. Plus, getting organized might even uncover some ways to save. Here are some tips to help you rake in some savings along with those leaves.

Take inventory.

Just like any cleaning project, it's best to know what you're working with. Take stock of all financial records, personal records and valuables. Knowing exactly where your important documents are is also helpful in case of an emergency like a flood, fire or other home event.1 (See the sidebar for what types of documents you need.)

Keep, store, shred.

Having a good filing system will ensure that you always know where your key documents are and can find them at a moment's notice. These can be divided into three categories: keep, store, shred. Keep documents and records you use regularly; store documents that are more than three years old that you still need, but not daily; and shred what you don't need any more.2 For more suggestions on what to keep, store, or shred read Managing Household Records.

Review and update.

Now that you have a handle on what you have and where to find it – it's a great time to see if there's anywhere you can save money. Look at services like cable, interest rates on loans and credit cards, and review your insurance policies to see if you're getting the best deal. And be sure to review regularly – now that your information is all in one place it will be easy to review your bills and update your budget.

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Perez, Maria. Fall Financial Cleaning: Rake in the Savings. N.p. unknown. N.d. August 2013.

1Rutherford, Dan. Prepare your Finances for Emergencies. N.p. unknown. N.d. June 2013.

2Managing Household Records. N.p. unknown. N.d. June 2013.

3Your Home Inventory. N.p. unknown. N.d. June 2013.

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This article is based on information available in September 2013. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.

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How to organize your finances

As you go through your financial records, you'll want to compile all documents, bills, warranties and receipts that fall into these categories: Financial records, personal records and household belongings.

  • Financial records.
    This includes all bank accounts, investments and loans as well as your income tax information (paystubs and W2s). Any insurance policies, wills or trusts, and regular bills like utilities should be included.
  • Personal records.
    All your identifying documents like birth certificate, social security card and passport, plus any marriage or divorce documents and titles, deeds or vehicle registration.
  • Household belongings.
    Make a list of all electronics, appliances, jewelry, furniture and clothing, and compile any receipts and warranty information.
Once you've got an idea of what you're working with, talk with your insurance agent or go online for Personal Finance information to help you buy the amount of insurance you need, get your insurance claims settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return, and keep track of all the things you've accumulated over the years.3