How to Set Up Your Filing Cabinet

Content Updated October 3, 2007

A filing system is essential if you plan on having paperwork, and if you pay taxes, own a bank account, or go to the doctor you’re going to have paperwork.

If you can’t afford a fancy filing cabinet, get a cheap one. If you can afford a cheap one, invest in some plastic storage boxes. If that’s still to expensive for your current financial situation, settle on some sturdy cardboard boxes. All you need are some filing folders and a marker. Hanging file folders are optional but come in handy for setting up categories and sub-categories.

There are several ways you can organize your files. You can place them in order of category or how often you access them. You can even set things up by month and year. I suggest doing whatever works best for you, but I recommend using the category approach first and then by accessibility and date when appropriate.


  • Bills / Utilities
  • Credit Cards and Credit Lines
  • Bank Accounts
  • Investment Accounts (Non-Retirement)
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Insurance
  • Income Taxes (One per person if filing separately, one per couple if filing jointly)
  • Pay Stubs & W-2
  • Receipts for Tax Deductible Items
  • Financial Plan


  • Automobile
  • Product Information
  • Housing
  • Rental / Residence History
  • Current Home Rental Information (if currently renting)
  • Current Home Purchase Information (if own current home)
  • Home Purchase Information
  • Home Maintenance and Repair Information
  • Property Taxes


  • Health
  • Employment
  • Education (One per person)
  • Transcripts / Report Cards
  • Awards
  • Finances / Financial Aid
  • Catalogues for Years Attended (especially for college)
  • Legal


  • Gardening
  • Interior Design
  • Vacations
  • Etc.