Filing documents is the definition of drudgery. Wasn’t the promise of computers that they’d make life easier? Shouldn’t they be moving documents around automatically and placing them right where I need them exactly when I need them? Good news. We can do that.
How to do one less damn thing every month
Even though we spend a lot of time talking about personal finance and taxes, I’m a sucker when it comes to productivity and automation. There’s just something magical about setting up a system that automatically handles a boring task. If you’re willing to put in an hour of work and a little money, this is a great introduction to the true power of computers and the promise of an easier life.
The Problem. You receive a lot of statements: Credit card statements; Amazon statements; Electricity statements; paystubs; etc.
Generally, these statements aren’t relevant to your day to day life. Yet, every now and then you need one. Maybe it’s for a reimbursement. Maybe it’s to make sure you’re not being overcharged. Getting a statement involves finding the provider’s website, remembering your login credentials, finding the place to download the statement, finding the right statement and finally downloading it. It’s not pleasant.
The Solution. All of your statements are delivered to you in clean PDFs, filed in an organizational system by provider name and available on any device whenever you need them.
We can do this with a combination of Evernote and FileThisFetch.
Setting up the system
Evernote. Evernote is a free service that acts as a cloud database of notes. They offer a paid version, but I don’t think you need it for setting up this system. You’ll need to download Evernote and set up an account if you don’t have one.
Once you have Evernote installed and an account created, that’s it. No more work on the Evernote side. Maybe install the app on your phone. You might want access to these statements on the go.
FileThis. FileThis is the magic ingredient. It’s the thousands of elves that do the hard work. Each week, FileThis will contact your accounts and ask for recent statements. If it finds any statements, it will download them and add them to a specific folder in Evernote. FileThis will handle one account for free (or two, if you use my link). For 20 accounts, it costs $20 a year.
Worried about handing out your login information to financial accounts? I get it. I don’t use FileThis for any of my asset accounts (i.e. anywhere I keep assets). But I have no problem using it for my liability accounts. What’s the worst that could happen if someone gets access to my natural gas account? Would they pay the bill for me? Same for student loans. Plus, they use bank level security. To me, the benefits far outweigh the potential problems associated with someone hacking into my Time Warner account.
The system in practice
Connecting your accounts is easy. FileThis has 100s on offer. You simply select the account you want to connect and enter your login information.
After connecting accounts, you tell FileThis where you want the statements to go. I use Evernote, but they offer many options including their own cloud storage, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
Once the accounts are connected, FileThis does all the heavy lifting. The end result is a tidy virtual cabinet with every statement, automatically downloaded. Next time you need to submit a phone bill for reimbursement? Drag it out of your Evernote system and it’s ready to go.
Joshua Holt is a practicing private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor. Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He spends 10 minutes a month on Personal Capital keeping track of his money. He's also exploring real estate crowdfunding platforms like Fundrise which are open to both accredited and non-accredited investors.
Eight thoughts on How to Set Up an Automated Filing System and Reduce Stress
Hey BI, this is a really cool idea. We only use Evernote for its note taking abilities and didn’t consider it for this type of use. This service probably isn’t available in Australia and at the moment the $20 is worth more to us than finding our log ins.
Hey Tristan – $20 a year is pretty cheap in my book, but don’t forget that you can do two accounts for free. It’s easy to set it up for a couple of accounts and see how it goes. At least that’s two more accounts that you won’t have to keep track of. For me though, $20 a year is easily worth never having to keep track of my statements. I use this all the time – it’s so handy to just open up Evernote and immediately have my statements accessible.
I would be very curious if they connect with accounts in Australia so let us know if you end up trying it!
This is a great plan, if only people would take the time to set it up. I have a simple accounting and
record-keeping system that I’ve used for years. I have friends whose mail is strewn around at their work, on the dashboard and floor of their car and on their kitchen counters. They can never find
their bills or an important letter and are frequently hit with late fees and higher interest rates. I don’t
get it. I’ve even set up some of my friends with my simple system and they’ve never bothered to use it!
If you don’t have an automated system as you suggest, the biggest mistake most people make is not processing their daily mail as it arrives. Open everything, put the bills in a To Be Paid folder(the soonest due in the front) and as you pay bills, write the amount you paid, the date, and the number if
paying by check, on the paid bill and drop in the Paid folder. Three folders is all it takes–To Be Paid,
Paid and correspondence. How hard is that?
Hi Diane – It sounds like we would get along really well. I always say there’s two kinds of people in the world, those that have no unread messages and those that have a badge showing something like 9278 unread messages. The latter would kill me.
Hi Josh, I love this idea. I’m setting it up now. Can I ask why you use evernote rather than the integrated filethis storage area? Thanks!
I use Evernote as my “external brain” to store things that I don’t want to remember in my actual brain, so it’s the place where statements would go that I might want to access sometime in the future through a simple search. I don’t think it’s critical to use Evernote and in fact have considered leaving it for a better solution.
Your link to file this points to a unknown page