Guest Post By Jen Turrell
Decluttering your finances can feel overwhelming, and it’s something so many of us put off. It’s hard to know where to start, what to throw out and keep, and how to manage all that information.
Keeping your money matters streamlined makes managing your dollars so much easier, and dealing with money becomes a pleasure, not a chore.
Best of all, decluttering leads to a better mindset around money, and a fast track to increased wealth.
So, where to start?
Tidy Your Desk And Create An Inspiring Space
The best and simplest place to start is your desk.
Whether it’s an actual desk in a home office or a designated “station” somewhere in your home, the area in which you deal with bills, receipts and payments needs to be tidy and clear.
There is nothing worse than an area which is full of paperwork and clutter and it certainly doesn’t help to put you in the mood for organising and dealing with your money tasks!
So, as a simple first step, tidy your desk.
Corral the paperwork, bills, receipts, bank access cards and anything else you need in one place.
Think about making this area fun and inspiring - you could add a lovely framed picture of your dream holiday destination or a goal you are working towards with money to keep you on track with being organized.
Add some flowers to the area, play music while you are dealing with the bills; no-one said money tasks need to be boring!
Scheduling Your Finance Time
A great way to stop the feeling of overwhelm with money management is to have preset days and times in your calendar when you hand specific money tasks. For instance I schedule financial days on the fifth, the twentieth and the last day of the month. I have automated as much of my system as possible using my bank’s bill pay system, and I batch paying other bills, sending invoices and monitoring my system for the fifth and twentieth. On the last day of the month I tie up any loose ends, calculate my self-employed income and transfer a percentage of that into my tax account for quarterly estimated tax payments.
Small, regular slots will make it easier to stay on top of your money management without falling behind and finding it hard to catch up.
Habits take a few weeks to stick, so help kickstart your de-cluttered finances by building in some regular times that work well for you and your routine.
Even 15 (or even 2!) minutes at a time will help you deal with a lot of the tasks in hand (more so given the tidy area you are now working in!), and it can be helpful to schedule regular slots for bill payment, logging receipts, filing your invoices and checking on your bank statements.
Set a reminder or an alarm on your smartphone to help keep your new habits on track, or simply schedule the time in your calendar as you would any other event.
As the weeks roll on you will find that it becomes so much easier to stay on top of your finances with willpower habits
Logging Your Purchases Daily
The simple act of logging purchases on a daily basis makes working out budgets and financial planning so much easier.
Google Drive is a simple, easy to access from most smartphones and tablets, and free to use, making daily expenditure logging a breeze.
Evernote is also an easy to use app with a free version available which is excellent for this kind of task. In Evernote, you can even take a photograph of receipts and add them to a digital notebook, saving on paperwork and making your records keeping super simple.
I personally use Mint.com to track expenses, check balances, and see how spending in different categories changes from month to month. You can also use the budget function to see a visual representation of how much you have spent in any category relative to how much you planned to spend based on a present limit.
Whether you use tech or a good old notebook, making the daily habit of recording what you do with your dollars will make a huge difference in your newly decluttered financial life.
Let Tech Do The Heavy Lifting For You + Monthly Check-In
Tech can now go a long way to making money management easier.
Automating bills, savings and payments takes away the headache of reminders, late fees and overdrafts.
All you need do is to check in twice a month and ensure that your wonderfully automated system is working as it should.
Set your bills and auto payments up, and schedule a time every month to check in and make any changes that you might need to.
Yearly Documentations And Updates
I live my life in quarters - it's a nice rhythm. I use a gorgeous 90 day planner that I completely love and plan financial decisions along with planning for my quarterly estimated tax payments. If you pay quarterly estimated taxes, the end of a quarter is a great time to look back and see what your income was for this same quarter last year and compare it to the present. Measuring progress is a beautiful thing.
Once a year, set aside time to really look into how your finances are working and to document any changes you want to make.
January is the best time as you can tie up loose ends for the previous year and get a head start on taxes for April, but start from where you are now and when the New Year comes you will be all the more prepared!
Whatever kind of accounting software you use for personal and/or business finances, go through it to make sure that you have everything in there and allocated correctly.
If you are someone with regular W-2 type employment where you get a paycheck every month from an employer, and also take the standard deductions, this shouldn't be too much work.
If you take itemized deductions for medical expenses or business expenses, then this may be a bit more work.
Set aside a day to do this. Turn off social media, phones and notifications so you can sit down quietly and sort straight through.
Did anything change this year?
Did you get married or divorced?
Have a new baby?
Did a dependent from previous years age out of being a dependent?
Did you buy or sell property? Investments? Assets?
Did you hire domestic help?
Document all of it.
Once you are done going through the transactions of the past year, now you can tackle the filing cabinet and use that shredder that sits idle most of the year.
If you don't have your own shredder, don't worry!
You can take a box of documents to Office Max and have them shred it for you in bulk.
LifeHacker has compiled a great list of things that you can safely shred and what you need to keep in paper form (for now).
This infographic is incredibly useful for reference too:
Anything important that I keep in paper form, I also have a scan of just in case the paper document is damaged some day.
Decluttering your finances will help you get clarity around your money and to regain control.
Small daily, weekly, monthly and yearly habits combined with setting up an automated system (and a tidy desk!) means that you need no longer worry about your money.
Author’s bio: As a financial personal trainer, Jen Turrell supports female entrepreneurs and self-employed women take control of their money, so it doesn’t control them. http://jenturrell.com/free-checkup/