Start the New Year by organizing household records

Start the New Year by organizing household records


Urbana—The beginning of the year is an excellent time to organize and update family and household records, says Mary Ann Fugate, University of Illinois Extension educator in consumer and family economics. Doing this gives record keepers a jump start on the inevitable income tax season. It’s also a good way to keep close tabs on where a family’s money goes and to take inventory of the family’s present financial status.

Fugate recommends getting started by gathering all receipts and documents

from 2002, then considering what should be kept and what can be pitched.

For income tax purposes, the law requires that people keep all records that enable them to complete their tax return. “They should hold onto all receipts, canceled checks, vouchers and other evidence to help them verify amounts claimed and deductions for credits,” said Fugate. “All such documentation should be kept for at least six years, and all medical bills should be kept for three years to back up the taxpayer’s canceled checks.”

But it isn’t necessary to save everything. Record keepers can lighten the load by discarding checks and bills that no longer serve a purpose. For example, people who are paid in weekly or monthly salary statements can throw these statements away after checking them against their annual W-2 Form. Or they can save the year-end statement with the cumulative total for the year.

“This is also a good time to update household inventory records,” said Fugate. “If fire or burglary occurs in the home, this record will help families remember what has to be replaced and how much each item is worth. They might find that they need to increase their insurance because their possessions are worth more than they thought.”

For each item in the family inventory, include model number, brand name, dealer’s name, a general description, how much it cost, when it was purchased and what it would cost to replace it. Taking pictures of the rooms and household possessions now will make future identification or replacement easier.

To download a free copy of Extension’s 64-page publication, Household and

Personal Property Inventory, go to

A net worth statement is a good way to keep tabs on personal and family possessions, says Fugate. Net worth can be determined simply by adding the value of all the family owns and subtracting the total of all that they owe. If this is done annually, record keepers can quickly see whether they are getting ahead financially or falling behind, and, in either case, how fast it is occurring.

This is a good time for families to consider their present situation in light of major goals, such as retirement. University of Illinois Extension has developed eight easy-to-use checklists to help you gather and organize important documents, become acquainted with investment and retirement income options and keep your plan on track as you move from step to step in the process. To order your retirement planning checklist for $16, call 1-800-345-6087 and request publication C1376.

When family records have been organized, updated and evaluated, it’s time to put papers in their proper location. Important documents that are difficult to replace, such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers, adoption papers, and any other document that is either government or court related, should be secured in a safe deposit box.

Family and household records that are kept at home should be stored in one

location. Proper storage of family records can be as elaborate as setting up a home office or as simple as investing in an accordion folder that can be kept under the bed, said Fugate.

Source: Mary Ann Fugate (217) 333-4901;; Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer (217) 244-2827;

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