Home > Articles > Business & Management > Finance & Investing

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Set Up Your Command Center

If you have online access and a laptop, you can theoretically manage your financial life wherever you want. That’s especially true if you’ve ditched paper bills and statements in favor of their emailed counterparts.

Most people, though, are going to want a designated space in their house to process bills, file paperwork, and run their economic ship. The obvious place to create your command center is next to the computer you use to pay bills. If your computer isn’t in a good spot, with Internet access and a printer, move it to a place that can accommodate that and the other stuff you’re going to need, such as these things.

  • Office supplies—These include a stapler, paper clips, folders, paper (for writing complaint letters—sometimes you need an actual paper trail), envelopes, pens, stamps, Post-Its, and your checkbook. (We hope you’ll soon become like some of my MSN readers, who haven’t written a check in years, but until you’re entirely comfortable with electronic payments, you may want to keep the paper checks handy.)

  • Tickle file—Your bill calendar and alerts should prevent a bill from falling through the cracks. But if you’re new to electronic payments, or you’re still in the habit of being “triggered” to pay bills by the sight of such a bill, you may want to use a tickle file as a back-up reminder. (A tickle file “tickles” your memory about stuff you need to do.) You can use a folder or an accordion file; just make sure you use it only for bills, that it’s kept separate from other paperwork you need to process, and that you consult it frequently (more about that later).

  • Storage—Although some people work happily out of a banker’s box (those cardboard storage boxes you get at office supply stores), I find it a lot more convenient to have a two-drawer filing cabinet nearby. You may need less space—just a single drawer—if your finances are very simple, if you don’t own a business, or if you’re in the habit of scanning most of your paperwork and destroying or archiving the originals.

  • A shredder—As long as you’ve got paperwork with private personal information—Social Security numbers, account numbers, and so on—you’ll need some way to dispose of it safely. Although you can get a basic shredder for as little as $20, you should invest in a more robust crosscut version that shreds more thoroughly and that can dispose of CDs.

  • A filing system—Although some people are comfortable using a chronological system—filing everything by month, and trusting their memories to recall when something was filed so they can retrieve it—most people will find that an alphabetical system is more intuitive.

You can divide it any way you like, but some common divisions might include

  • Autos
  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Residence
  • Retirement accounts
  • School
  • Wills and estate plans

You can divide the major headings from there. You’ll probably want, for example, separate folders for different kinds of insurance: auto, disability, health, home, life, and personal liability (also known as umbrella coverage).

If you want a terrific ready-made system, let me put in a pitch here for HomeFile, a terrific organizing system created by two financial planners. Not only does it help you make sense of your paperwork, but it also tells you when to discard or archive what. You can find it at the Container Store or at www.homefile.net.

You’ll also need some sort of system for handling receipts. Although your transactions will be increasingly handled electronically, you’ll still need to track some dead-tree product now and then—for rebates, returns, business expense reimbursements, and the like.

Here’s how I do it, using suggestions from Debbie Stanley’s excellent book, Organize Your Personal Finances in No Time.

Every receipt I get goes into one of three pockets in my wallet, depending on its type:

  • Long-term—Receipts I need to hold onto for tax purposes or to document big purchases

  • Action—Receipts I need to submit for business expense reimbursements or rebate offers

  • Short-term—Receipts I probably will never need again but that I want to keep handy for a few months just in case

Most of my receipts are of the short-term variety, and trying to sort and track them individually is too much of a pain. So I took three folders and labeled them “This Month,” “Last Month,” and “Two Months Ago.” Every few days, I dump a wad of short-term receipts from my wallet to the “This Month” file. At the end of the month, I transfer those receipts to the “Last Month” file. Next month, I’ll transfer this batch of receipts to the “Two Months Ago” file. At the end of the third month, I dump the contents of the “Two Months Ago” file in the trash.

I deal with the other receipts in my wallet every week or so—taking action on those that require it and filing the ones I need long term.

This system has served me well. I no longer have to face a mound of unsorted paperwork or a wallet that won’t close because it’s so jammed with paper. The only things I have to remember are making sure I put every receipt into my wallet (instead of letting the salesperson slip them into the bag, or stuffing them in a pocket) and emptying my wallet into the proper folders every few days.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020