Keeping financial records

You will not need a calendar or journal for financial records, just a big, well-organized file cabinet. It is essential to keep track of bills and payments. Dealing with financial records is a major headache for many parents, but keeping good records can prevent financial catastrophe.

The following are ideas on how to organize financial records:

• Set up a file cabinet just for medical records.

• Have hanging files for hospital bills, doctor bills, all other medical bills, insurance explanations of benefits (EOB), prescription receipts, tax-deductible receipts (tolls, parking, motels, meals), and correspondence.

• Whenever you open an envelope, file the contents immediately. Don't leave it on the desk or throw it in a drawer.

• Keep a notebook with a running log of all tax-deductible medical expenses, including the service, charge, bill paid, date paid, and check number.

• Don't pay a bill unless you have checked over each item listed to make sure that it is correct.

• Start new files every year.

I bought an accordion-style file folder each year to hold everything to do with Stephan. It had a slot each for hospital bill printouts, insurance explanation of benefits, receipts for all prescriptions, all Candlelighters' newsletters, pediatrician bills, laboratory bills, and Leukemia Society information.

To be honest, the paper trail really gets me down. I can only deal with the stacks every few months. I open things and make sure that the insurance company is doing their part, and then I try to sort through and pay our part.

I started out organized, and I'm glad I did because the hospital billing was confusing and full of errors. I cleared out a file cabinet and put in folders for each type of bill and insurance papers. I filed each bill chronologically so I could always find the one I needed. I made copies of all letters sent to the insurance company and hospital billing department. I wrote on the back of each EOB (explanation of benefits) any phone calls that I had to make about that bill. I wrote down the date of the call, the person's name who I spoke to, and what she said. It saved me a lot of grief.

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