Paperless files are best organized the same way you would organize paper files, which is also how computers are set up to store electronic files.
The following setup describes how to get organized on your personal computer. But you can also follow the same process and take it to the “cloud” (store all your information online). The cloud strategy will also automatically back up your data.
If you want use cloud technology, there are many websites that offer this service. But I’m only going to talk about the best one, which in my opinion is Google Drive (formally Google Docs).
I’ll explain more in a minute, but first, let’s set up your files.
It’s not important to set up all your directories at once. Create them as you start to file your electronic documents. But think about a way to arrange these folders that’s easy for you to remember.
To start, create a directory in your “Documents” folder as the main location for all of your digital files. I named my folder “Paper Files,” to remind me that these digital files are organized like the paper files in my old filing cabinets.
Inside of “Paper Files,” I created subfolders such as:
• Medical Bills
• Social Security
Then I set up subfolders within those subfolders:
• Banks: (Checking & Savings, Credit Cards, Money Markets, Investments, Mortgage)
• Taxes: (Property, Federal & State)
• Utilities: (Cable TV, Phone Home, Phone Mobile, Electric, Natural Gas, Water & Sewer)
Finally, I added folders for each individual account:
• Banks/Credit Cards: (Citibank, Discover, Chase, American Express)
• Banks/Checking & Savings: (TD Bank, Sovereign)
Now back to the wonders of Google, if you want to store your files using cloud technology:
• Google Drive is free.
• Comes with 5 GB of space.
• Is the easiest and most flexible to use.
• Allows you to seamlessly keep all your files both on your computer and on their servers
Google Drive is seamless because it automatically synchronizes files stored in your account with files stored in Google Drive on your personal computer. So when you save a file on your computer’s Google Drive directory, it automatically saves in your Google Drive account online and vice versa. Bottom line: You have access to all your “paper files” from any computer and your smartphone, anywhere in the world.
To get started using Google Docs, set up a gmail account following these steps:
• Sign up at: http://www.gmail.com.
• Log into your email and click on “Documents” on the top of the menu.
• Follow the directions to get started with Google Drive.
• Once you have your Google Drive set up, start creating the directories for your “paper
Now your digital “filing cabinet” is all set up.
Scott Bilker is the founder of DebtSmart.com and author of the best-selling books, Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart.