This is the time of year to get your finances organized! That
way you can have a plan for the year, and can get ready to prepare your tax
returns. This is not an article on how
to save money, or where the best place is to invest your fortunes. Before we
can think about heading in those directions, we need to know where and what our
current finances are. Here are some tips
on getting your finances organized.
Where is my Current Money? Jot down where all of your accounts are and their current balances. These accounts include savings, retirement, trusts, loans, credit cards, mortgages and medical debt. Share this information with your spouse or another responsible family member. Then if something happens to you, someone else knows where your finances stand.
What is my Monthly Income? When tallying your income, remember to account for dependent care reimbursements, child support, social security, rental income and your income from your job. I like to think about my income after benefits and tax income (the income that is available to live on). This helps to put in prospective what I have to spend.
Make a Plan Reflect on the last year or the last month. What where your expenses? Be honest. Then you can look forward to what expenses you will have in the coming year. Be honest. If medical expenses were $5,000 last year, will they be similar this year?
Divide Your Money
into these Four Categories:
Fixed –These are the monthly expenses that are probably not going to change. They may include housing, utilities, medical, food, tuition, etc.
Philanthropy – This is the money you plan to give each month. This can include religious contributions, charitable giving, capital campaign commitments and pop up fundraisers (think neighbor kid raising money for the class trip to Washington DC, or the Scout selling wreaths).
Future – This is where you plan for your and your family’s future. This may include retirement, savings, college savings, etc.
Fun – This is the category that we all live for. This could include traveling, movies, sporting events, dinner out, golfing, gym memberships, a photography class, and so on.
Simplify Your Spending Consider using a cash only system or using one standard credit card for your purchases. This makes tracking your spending (and debt) simplified by having one platform to review your spending. Knowing where all your money is and where your money will go, will help you to get a grasp on getting your money organized. There are great apps available to assist you with budgeting and tracking where your money goes. Mint, Wally and NYAB are popular apps that are user friendly.
Organizing your money will help you to make better decisions when unexpended expenses or fun opportunities are presented to you.
An organizer can help you determine where your money is and detail where your money will go. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
In March, I shared with you, general tips on how to save time. These ideas included staying organized (of course!), identifying time wasters, making the most of running errands, finishing what you start, readjusting priorities, keeping healthy snacks on hand and outsourcing where it makes sense.
This month, I would like to share with you how I personally try to be more efficient and save time. Like you, I too juggle family, jobs, bosses, meals, schedules and fun. Here are my go-to concepts for saving time and reducing stress.
Kitchen Time Savers
Kitchen time is not enjoyable for me, but I know the importance of good nutrition. I use a couple resources to help with this.
Each week I have a simple plan for meals. I don’t make large, multi-course meals, but I will always have a refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and a pantry full of nuts and seeds. Meals are always prepared for plenty of leftovers. I also leave a day or two for take out or going out to eat.
Health Heather with Better Health by Heather has been wonderful with helping to keep our meals on track, limit processed food and eat meals to sustain energy throughout the day.
Prepared Meals Jess with Cream City Casseroles has been a huge time saver for the weekday chaos. Her casseroles are made from scratch weekly, and are delivered frozen on Wednesdays. My kids love them. Her menu changes monthly. We haven’t had the same casserole yet this year!
I have an ongoing shopping list with Woodman’s online grocery delivery service. Every week, I import my standard list into the shopping cart and then make changes and additions based on the meal plan for the week. I no longer spend three hours grocery shopping each week.
Laundry Time Savers
I have a laundry day. Instead of running a load or two of laundry each day, I do it all in one day. On laundry day, I do not schedule any other appointments or meetings. To complete one week of laundry for six people, it takes six hours of non-stop focus. This includes sorting and stain treating to folding and putting away. Doing laundry in one day saves time overall because I fold, sort and put away one time. Doing laundry multiple days would force me to repeat the same process multiple times.
Cleaning Time Savers
We do not allocate funds for a full service house cleaner. Instead, our cleaning assistant, Jackie, comes every other week for three hours. She focuses on the main areas of the house, alternating certain details each visit. I handle the other areas (office, bedrooms and bathrooms). Having Jackie help works two-fold: the house has to be tidy so she can see the areas that need to be cleaned, and it forces me to do my share of the cleaning. My house stays clean without breaking the bank.
Keeping a Master Calendar
Everything goes in the Google calendar. All entries include first names of who is involved, addresses and any other pertinent information. All calendar items are differentiated to show which items are family, business related, and so on. I can then print the family calendar so the kids know what to expect each day, and my husband is always in the loop of appointments and activities. I can rest easy each evening since all the next day’s activities are scheduled to the minute.
Lists keep me accountable, focused, structured, and also help to reduce stress. A small notepad is in my bag at all times to make my lists. This is used to jot down things that come up throughout the day, reminders, shopping lists, and notes during client meetings all go in my little notebook. There are great apps for this same thing, but I find my notebook to work best. My husband likes to use Trello to track all of the household projects that he is involved in. There are many list making apps available including Wunderlist, todoist and Evernote.
Sticking to a Limited Wardrobe
My wardrobe consists of a limited number of items that mix and match, and can go from running kids around, to consultations with clients, to teaching college lectures, to volunteer work, to dinner prep., and running kids around again. It is a capsule wardrobe of sorts. My good friend LeAnn Conway with Conway Image Consulting helps me with the selection of each item (she’s great). I have some personal restrictions: no dry clean only, no wardrobe changes throughout my day (with the exception of tossing on a blazer or sweater), and no heals. What I put on in the morning has to take me through the entire day.
Packing Swim and Sports Bags in Advance
Gym bag, swim bag and sports bags, stay packed and stocked. This way we are not running around last minute to grab swim suits, soccer cleats and baseball socks. As soon as it’s washed, it’s back into the bag.
Despite my ability to be organized, I still struggle to get projects done. Having Jeanne, my organizing assistant, come help me with projects, allows me to schedule time to stay focused on the project in front of me. She keeps me accountable, offers another perspective and keeps me on track.
“Three hours working with an organizer is like 12 hours of working on my own.”
My Advice to you: Outsource
Where it makes sense, outsource. Look at the value of your time. It may make sense to outsource a couple tasks, in order to help you focus your time on more important items. Consider getting help with cleaning, laundering, yard maintenance and meal preparation. Your family may be the first option for help in these areas.
Do you walk in the house after a long day at work and just sigh at your cluttered house? Have you planned to organize one morning but just did not know where to start or were just not in the mood?
Are you caught in a vicious cycle: as soon as you organize one room another one has turned to chaos? Maybe you just need to prioritize, find motivation, and ask for help. Easier said than done?
Here is how to get started:
As with most goals in life, you want to strive for progress and improvement, not perfection. Most of us do not have time to achieve perfection in everything we do and still live a happy, fulfilling life. When you set goals, make them achievable, attainable. When you make that progress, create a visual way to track it or remind yourself of all you have accomplished. Since we will never have more than 24 hours in a day, we may have to say “no” to some activities and tasks.
As you list each goal, task, or activity, ask yourself if it is necessary, if it supports your ultimate goals, or if any other activity or person will be negatively affected if it does not happen. You may see your list shrink before your very eyes. If you are not sure how to narrow your list, search the internet, ask a friend, or consult a professional organizer (we help with both the tangible and intangible).
Do you start the day with the best of intentions to declutter the bathroom only to lose your drive because it is “just not worth it?” What is worth it to you? What do you value? Why? These questions may not seem to have much to do with organizing, but they can be the key to your motivation. How much time do you spend on activities that relate to your values? Most of us would probably answer “not enough.” Then why would you ever spend time on an activity not related to your values, such as organizing?
The answer: organizing allows you to focus more on your values. Organizing means less time searching for the other shoe, fewer arguments over who last used the scissors and did not put them back, less time cleaning around the clutter. With less time wasted, you have more time to be with family, exercise, eat healthy, and pursue those life goals that really matter. The next time you wonder why you would ever make time to organize, remember that organizing can be a means to an end. If you find a task that seems pointless, ask yourself how that task can bring you closer to what means the most to you. It is amazing how a change in attitude and knowing what is in it for you can motivate.
Ask for Help
Even if most of your chores and daily tasks are “value added”, they are not always fun and often too much for one person. Solution: spread the responsibility among the whole household. What is boring to one person may be fun for another. One person’s weak spot may be another person’s strength. Some people have time in the morning to help everyone get ready for the day, and others have more time at night to help everyone get ready for bed. When you do ask for help, just remember to be specific or be prepared for the help to be not exactly what you expected. Letting others pick what they want and find their own way, within reason, may even make them more willing and productive.
If organizing is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.