9 Important Documents You Need To Keep Safe In Your Apartment

important documents

Burst/Sarah Pflug

Important documents like tax returns, medical bills and more can easily pile up at home. And once you’re living on your own, it’s your job to organize them in a way that’s safe and smart. These documents and papers include personal information that you may not want your roommate to see or that you’ll need to reference at a later date. Here are the documents you should hold on to, how long you should save them and how to keep them organized.

Important Documents To Keep

1. Pay Stubs

Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey suggests full- and part-time job pay stubs should be kept for at least one year, while unemployment pay stubs should be kept for at least seven years. Keep freelance invoices and receipts for at least one year, too.

2. Lease And Rent Receipts

Your lease is an important part of living on your own. Keep a copy of it, as well as copies of one year’s worth of your monthly rent payments. You might need them during income tax season or as proof that you’re reliable when you apply for another apartment or a mortgage.

3. Insurance Information

When it comes to medical, dental, vision, life or renters insurance, keep all policies, claims, bills and receipts for several years. Ramsey says to hold onto medical papers for seven years and insurance papers for one year.

4. Receipts For Large Purchases

Keep any receipts for large purchases like home improvements projects or cars for at least seven years, if not indefinitely. You may need them during tax season or for insurance purposes.

5. Tax Returns

important documents tax returns

Burst/Sarah Pflug

Whether you do your taxes on your own or have an accountant prepare them for you every year, hold onto your annual tax returns pretty much indefinitely. You’ll need last year’s return when you file this year’s taxes.

6. Financial Account Statements

Hold onto bank and credit card statements for at least seven years. Keep investment account statements and retirement plan account information indefinitely, though, as you may need them in the long-term future.

7. Legal Documents

Birth certificates, passports, social security cards, marriage license, wills and other legal documents should be kept indefinitely.

8. Education Records

If you attended high school, college or other educational institutions, keep all records of enrollment, payment, graduation and anything else that may be related to your time there indefinitely. You never know when you may need proof of your degrees or level of education.

9. Other Documents

Other documents like receipts for minor purchases, utility bills and ATM receipts should be kept for a few months, but you can get rid of them after that.

Organize Your Important Documents

important documents organize

Burst/Sarah Pflug

Now that you know what you need to keep and until when, it’s smart to organize your documents in a way that makes them safe yet accessible.

A filing cabinet is a great place to start. You can buy an affordable filing cabinet — Amazon has a few for less than $50 — that can double as a nightstand if you have space. If you don’t, opt for an expandable filing folder with a spot for each of the nine important documents listed above.

If you can afford it, purchase a fire- and water-proof safe as well. You can find one for less than $40 on Amazon, and it’ll easily slide under your bed or in your closet. This safe should be used to keep those important documents that you may need indefinitely. However, be mindful of it’s size — it won’t necessarily hold everything. A safe is good to have on top of another filing cabinet or folder, so get both if you can.

Shred Documents When Done

After time has passed and you’re ready to get rid of those important documents that you don’t need to keep indefinitely, dispose of them the right way. You’ll want to invest in a shredder (or maybe ask for it as a birthday gift). A shredder allows you to cut these important documents into small pieces so that no one can steal your personal information from them. Once the papers have been shredded, put them into a plastic bag. Unfortunately, shredded paper isn’t easily recyclable, so you’ll most likely have to dispose of it as garbage.

Part of being an adult is keeping your personal documents safe. You never know when you might need them, and getting into a routine can help you easily find them when you do. With a little time, you’ll have everything filed away the right way and can rest easy knowing that your information is safe in your apartment.

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