As I type this up, I’m looking at my messy desk and wondering when I will straighten things up. Even thought I have been off for over a week now, I couldn’t stand to be sitting up in the office going through papers. We had some wonderful weather the past couple of days and I wanted to take advantage of it. I even had the opportunity to do something new: horseback riding! This was something that I have never done before. After this wonderful experience, I will be doing more of it. I guess I will need to allocate more money towards experiences!
Getting back to my desk, just because it’s messy doesn’t mean that I am not organized. I like to look at it as an “organized mess”. I have my upcoming payment pile and my paid bills filed. The rest of the mess is junk mail to be shredded, receipts, notes, and the box to my new cell phone. One of the hardest things about personal finance is staying organized and keeping up with it. There are many ways to get organized, stay organized, and even become proactive.
I feel one of the biggest obstacles to getting organized is not making time to get organized. We come home from work, very tired, and just start making little piles of junk that we plan on looking at a later date. Well, we do, but then it feels like it takes hours to go through it all! Well, that’s because it does. I have months of buildup and it can take me quite a few hours to get through the mess. I keep making excuses to not do things, “Well, the shredder will make too much noise and wake someone up.”
Try to take 10 – 15 minutes a day to tend your personal finance life. Remember the old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It takes many, many, small steps to reach a goal. Staring with the end in mind can help you build that solid foundation to take you where you want to go.
After working some time in your schedule, decide how you’d like to organize yourself. This will probably be the most difficult part. Here are a few that I have tried:
- Stackable Paper Bins
- Three-Ring Binders
- Digitizing Paperwork
- Electronic Billing
- Electronic Payment
- Electronic Debit
- Filing Cabinets/Bins
- Google Calendar with Reminders
The single most useful tool that keeps me on my toes is Google Calendar. I have it configured to alert me 10 days before a payment is due plus it syncs with my Android phone automatically! This has been a lifesaver on many occasions, especially when the work days seem to blur together.
When bills come in, they get filed in the unpaid pile. Once I pay them, they then get transferred to a three-ring binder. This binder takes up little space on my bookshelf and works better than filing it in a cabinet. I have about 2-3 years worth of statements stored here. I phase out older statements by scanning them to my computer and saving them as PDF files. This allows me to search the document for certain keywords in the event that I need to refer back to it. This allowed me to move from three file bins to just one. Just make sure you store backups of your paperwork in a save place.
I’ve been paying my bills online. From the mortgage to my local alarm company, ING Direct allows you to pay others from their website; even if the company doesn’t accept an electronic payment. ING Direct will send out a real check to the company on your behalf and they do not charge you for postage (except if it’s mailed overnight). You can even send your friends money directly to their bank account using the Person-2-Person payment feature.
Let’s not forget e-statements! They are usually in PDF files that you can save to your computer. This can save you time and energy by not having to scan in statements or file them away.
How do you stay organized with your busy lifestyle?