As a stay-at-home mom, I tend to take care of the majority of the household duties. I carry the burden of knowing more than I ever wanted to know about my family’s bill paying, banking, and household operations.
Late last year, my husband and I had a discussion about our finances, and our current arrangement. He told me that he wanted to know more about how the household was run… not just because it is smart to be involved with your partner when it comes to finances, but because if something ever happened to me, it would be tremendously difficult for him to figure everything out.
What he said got to me. I imagined how awful it would be to struggle with just the day-to-day stuff around here while suffering from stress and grief and taking care of the kids.
So I decided that creating a guide for my husband would be on my to-do list for 2012. And then I made a vow to get this task done.
I spent some time making a list of the critical things he should know and information about each subject:
- Medical information – Doctors, dentists, prescription information, allergy information, and how to log-in to our medical records online.
- Insurance information – Policy numbers and contact information for medical, house, car, and life insurance.
- Banking information – Where our money is, what accounts we have, and the appropriate logins.
- Investment information – Where our money is, what accounts we have, and the contact information for our financial adviser, accountant and lawyer.
- Credit card information – We don’t carry any credit card debt, but we do have a few credit cards we use to pay our regular bills. I included login information and where to find additional info like account numbers and terms.
- Crucial documents – On this page, I listed the location in our home of important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificate, social security cards, tax documents, titles to our vehicles, mortgage paperwork, etc.
Since we do much of our bill paying online, I realized that there were a lot of logins and passwords to know.
- Utilities & Phone
- Cell phones (My parents share a plan with us, so that info was included).
And I included some of the other logins that are not as critical, but are still important:
- Email – Email is crucial to keeping friends and family updated and for notices regarding online bill payment.
- School information – how to log into the parent portal to access grades, pay lunch accounts etc.
- Flickr account – I back up nearly all of our photos to a paid online account, so being able to access our photos is important.
- iTunes – All of our music and apps and the codes that restrict the ability to change settings on our gadgets.
- Amazon – All of my Kindle books, a lot of music, and a few family videos I’ve uploaded to Amazon’s cloud services.
Because it now provides an income for our family, I also dedicated a section to Northern Cheapskate. In the event that I was temporarily incapacitated, I would want my family to be able to place messages on the site and to check e-mail, etc. In the event that I was no longer on this earth, I would want my family to be able to access all accounts to make better decisions on what to do with the site.
Putting it Together
I wanted to keep this information in a small, easy to access format that was portable. I wanted it to be legible and easy to update. My solution was to type all of the information up and print it on 4×6 sheets of plain paper. I slipped each sheet (about a dozen in all) into a plastic photo album I picked up for $1 at Walmart. I used letter stickers I had in my scrapbooking stash to label the outside. The album will be stored in a fireproof box in a secure location.
Sharing the information
I shared the ‘Just in Case’ file with my husband and we spent some time discussing things in it. I also talked about the file with my mom (who is also our neighbor), just in case something catastrophic happened to both me and my husband.
I realized that there are some things I still need to do, starting with establishing some critical documents like power of attorney and a living will for both my husband and myself.
I am also working on creating a family binder. We currently have a lot of information stashed in a file holder on my counter. It’s been a decent system for us, but I like the idea of putting it all in a binder to keep it organized and more portable.
Final thoughts on Getting It Done
This certainly wasn’t the cheeriest project I’ve tackled, but I like that it opened up a line of communication with my family about our finances and day-to-day operations. And I think it made my husband appreciate what I do as a stay-at-home mom, which has been good.
I also liked that I could make this file as detailed as I wanted. I chose not to include every little detail because some things do change regularly, but included enough to make sure it would be useful guide.
While it did take awhile to gather up all of this information into one place, I felt a huge sense of relief once it was finished. It feels good knowing that with a little bit of work, I could save my family from a lot of stress during a challenging time.
This post is part of year-long vow to get those projects done that we’ve been putting off. Stay tuned next month as Susan tackles something on her “Get it Done” list. Now it’s your turn: What project did you finally get crossed off your to-do list this month? What’s on your “Get it Done” list for next month?