Make Your Paperwork Work for You

(This is a guest article by Melanie Taylor*)

Who says paperwork isn’t fun? What could be more fun than producing conclusive evidence that proves that YOU are 100% right? It’s all the more satisfying when being right means you’re saving money.

Blazing a paper trail...

Our lives are full of paperwork. Master it and you’ll find your finances run more smoothly. Let’s look at three of the most important paperwork categories…

Category One – Receipts

How many times have you had a ‘guaranteed’ product break within months of buying it?

One thing’s always guaranteed: the shop will be festooned with ‘No receipt, no returns’ signs, carefully placed within convenient finger-tapping range of the employee(s) you’re haggling with.

Argue, plead, point out that no other shop within 1,000 miles even sells that product – it all makes no difference in the face of that simple four-word logic. More frustrating yet, even manufacturers’ warranties can require proof of purchase!

If only you’d kept the receipt, you could be turning that broken product into cash, not trash.

Action: Never throw away receipts. Keep them in a dedicated drawer / folder, under whatever kind of filing system helps you locate them at need.

Category Two – Bank (and Credit Card) Statements

In this golden age of technology, it’s tempting to assume that all orders will be obeyed, all payments paid, all transactions transacted – on time and to n decimal places.

Yet banks, like all companies, are run by humans, inevitably the source of all human errors. Whatever instructions you’ve issued – whether by phone, online, or in person – there’ll always be a human involved somewhere down the line. It could be the person who takes your phone call, the ‘techie’ overseeing the online database, or the cashier who ferries your requests to the bank’s system.

This isn’t a criticism of banks. It’s an acknowledgement that human error is as ubiquitous as humans. However impressive the security checks, no organization anywhere on the planet can guarantee 100% safety.

Then there are the technical errors, computer errors, software errors... Whatever label they come with, they can all result in problems with your payments: problems which can affect your credit rating, saddle you with fines for late payment, and potentially land you in debt that you are responsible for clearing.

Which is why you should take the time to check your bank (and credit card) statements. Not just to look for hints that you’re the victim of fraud, but to make sure your planned transactions have been carried out on time and in full.

Action: Check your statements, then file them in date order, so you can refer back to specific instances whenever necessary.

Category Three – Letters

Disagreements can be terrible things, however trivial the subject matter. When it comes to finance, verbal agreements are often described as being ‘worth the paper they’re written on’.

So when you agree something with a creditor / debtor / customer / supplier, get them to put it in writing. When it arrives, keep it. Scan it, file it – do whatever makes it easy for you to find it quickly.

Nothing settles an argument quicker than: “In your letter, dated May 5th, you state – and I quote…”

Similarly, keep copies of everything you send them. If you think it’s necessary, send it registered, and keep the receipt stapled to the copy.

Action: Keep – and file – copies of everything.

A Final Thought

Like it or not, we live in bureaucratic times. Paperwork is everywhere, so learning to deal with it effectively is an important part of modern life.

The better you do that, the more you’ll save on three of the most valuable commodities in your life – time, money, and patience.

*About the author: This article was contributed by Melanie Taylor of Think Money, who provide debt help & advice.

*Image Credit: Photograph by lejoe [via Flickr Creative Commons]

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Plastic Card said...

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