The Frugal Catholic: “The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File” by Martha Wild King—January 2

We’ve seen the pile in our homes and in those of friends. It’s that stack of paperwork composed of unopened bills, bank statements, receipts for the tax file, birthday cards to send, forms that need a reply, letters to write, articles to read, paper items needing to be sent, guarantee registration forms,  church events you must remember, and sports schedules to check. It’s a nagging mass that most of us would rather set fire to than deal with. Nevertheless, a way exists to shave down that heap and keep it flowing. Conquer your paper clutter this New Year of 2015 by employing The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File and never lose another dated-response item again. Here’s how.

First you are going to need some tools, time, and a monthly calendar.


If you don’t have it already, find a file box for hanging file folders.  I use a 100 year old file cabinet passed down from my grandfather. Not fancy but the drawers work. Next get some hanging file folders (the ones with the little hook on the sides), and a box of manila folders.


  1. Take 31 tabs for the hanging files and write 1-31 on the white papers which can be inserted into the plastic sleeves placed on the files.

  2. Take 12 hanging files and do the same labeling with January — December and finally one that says PENDING.

  3. Label 30 manila folders with a Permanent Marker Sharpie with the words IN BOX. This is where you will place separate pieces of paperwork which need attending.

  4. Take 10 more manila folders, staple each one so it stays closed, then label it with the word  NO.

  5. File the 31 hanging folders from step 1 above in the file location for the current month.

  6. Place the manila folders from step 4 above in the weekend dates for the present month because no one should tackle paperwork on the weekends.

Monthly Calendar

As paperwork is received, place it in an IN BOX folder, and file under one of the days for the current month or under a future month if immediate attention is not required. Spread out your IN BOX folders for the current month to avoid being over loaded on any given day.  I try to arrange no more than two IN BOX folders per day.  When you are ready for the next month, say a few days before, pull out your calendar and put the NO’s in the weekends, and any unfinished 1-31 IN BOX folders into the next month.    And when you want to save something for future use and don’t have an immediate place to put it, add it to the PENDING hanging file folder. Between the 1-31 files, January- December, and PENDING, everything you need to attend to will have a nesting place. The idea of The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File is to make a filing system for paperwork to flow through.

The Frugal Catholic 1-31File

Total Cost Around $38

$16 for two 24 count boxes of hanging files 

$12 for 100 manila folders

$10 for a hanging file box, if you don’t already have a large family filing cabinet

This seems like a huge expense, but the materials will last a lifetime. I have been using the same 1-31 files now for 30 years which means I have spent about $1 a year to avoid paper pile-up.  This is a small expense to keep paperwork flowing.  And, of course, you can always reduce the upfront expense by using old files and folders which you presently have.

What I have seen this system do is to create a natural rhythm to my day.   If I can’t do the two files that day, I shove both to a later date; and eventually by the end of the month nearly everything is tackled. Also since I like to send out birthday cards purchased from The Dollar Store or Trader Joe’s, I put each of those in an IN BOX folder about seven days before the person’s birthday. Thus, the card arrives on time. The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File has utilized what Sacred Scripture says in Ephesians 5:15-16. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time.”

Give this system a try and watch 2015 be your best year ever!