I was speaking with a client recently and she told me “Jaimie, I’m 100% organized in my professional life. I have immediate access to the finest details about my clients. But when it comes to my personal financial life, I’m a mess.”
Perhaps some of you can relate to her confession. Overspending, accumulating credit card debt, and forgetting to pay bills on time are all symptoms of a disorganized financial life. And disorganization is costly. It costs you money, time and mental energy–something you’ve probably realized if you’ve ever spent a morning searching for a past-due bill.
So why do so many of us fail to get organized? Financial editor and author Jean Chatzky, in her book “The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness,” writes that many of us hold on to the belief that money is something beyond our control. To a certain extent, this is true. We cannot control the stock markets or corporate America, or macro issues like unemployment and the way war affects oil prices.
But there are many things that are within your control. For example, though you cannot control the stock market, you can control how much you invest. You do not have a say in whether or not your country goes to war, but you get to choose the car you buy–one that is gas efficient or a gas-guzzler. You also get to choose how much money to save and whether or not to have an emergency fund in case you’re ever layed-off.
We have more control than we think. Chatzky makes a powerful statement: “The control you exercise over your money has just as much (or more) to do with your financial happiness and contentment as how much money you have. And the more control you have, the less money you need to live and be content.”
Maybe you need to re-read that statement. Organizing our financial life and regaining control is key to financial success and personal happiness.
How do we get started? There are three simple ways to jump start decluttering and organizing your personal and financial life:
Step One: Throw out the junk
Many of us have a surface space in our house that seems to attract all the miscellaneous loose papers, magazine catalogs, kid art projects, pens and paperclips. Mine happens to be a small nook counter in the kitchen that is in a constant state of disarray. Begin by sorting through the pile and throwing out the junk.
Step Two: Create a system that works for you
What I mean is that not everyone needs to buy a filing cabinet, start color coding, or go to the Container Store. Simply come up with a system that works for you, one that allows you to find what you’re looking for easily. Whether that’s filing things in labeled folders or designating a specific drawer, what is the best system for you? And on a sidenote: Once you’ve created a system, maintain it by putting each item back in its newly-designated spot.
Step Three: Regularly process information
Regularly sorting through new mail, paying incoming bills, checking your bank statements, and updating Quicken will help you keep your finances under control and save you an immense amount of time. Daily (or weekly) maintenance allows you to tackle the bills in smaller chunks and is far less overwhelming in terms of time. It also helps you avoid unpleasant surprises–like missed deadlines or overdraft fees.
Organizing your financial life may seem daunting at first. But as you make the effort and begin to regain control of your financial life, you will begin to reap the rewards of saving time and money, as well as enjoying a happier life. These simple steps can also help you work towards achieving larger financial goals, like reducing debt, saving for retirement, and investing. Don’t keep putting it off. Begin your journey to financial wellness today.