Taking a little time regularly to organize where your money is going each month can reduce the financial stress caused by not knowing how and when your money is spent.
Even fiscally responsible Grownups sometimes get anxious about money. We worry about our earnings, bills, savings, and the means to afford the lives we want. Even hearing the word “money” in conversation can cause us to cringe—or change the topic. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Money used to stress me out because my finances were so disorganized. I had too many accounts, cards, and payments, and no budgeting system. Over the past few years, I uncluttered my finances and discovered that, in the same way a tidy home feels more comfortable to walk into, a simple system for tracking finances makes you feel better about your finances overall.
Here’s how I uncluttered my finances:
Many money anxieties stem from ignorance. While it might seem easier to live with your head in the sand (this was my philosophy for years), it often does more harm than good. So, before you do anything else, list all your accounts and their balances. Even if you’re starting with some negative balances, knowing your situation can help you move toward the positives.
Close Unnecessary Accounts
Look at your accounts: Are there any you can close? If you have unused accounts, consider closing them to simplify your budgeting processes. Just like you might donate or toss items you no longer use, getting rid of accounts you don’t need eliminates both physical and mental stress from your daily life.
Speaking of getting rid of things, clear out as much paperwork as possible. While I’m a minimalist, I do still keep a few hard copies: past tax returns (in case you’re audited), insurance policies, etc. But I shred everything else, once I’m done with it. Sign up with your providers to get bills delivered electronically to your inbox. If some companies don’t offer online billing, create a system where you pay the paper bill right away and then shred it. Paper clutter can take a long time to sort through, so take steps to get rid of it before you add more to the pile.
Automated processes (payments, savings deposits, etc.) easily help you get organized. First, schedule all your bills for automatic payments each month. Companies will still send you an electronic invoice, so you know what’s coming out before the payment is taken. No more paperwork, no more worrying whether you remembered to pay. Second, determine a minimum amount you want to save, then create an automatic withdrawal from one account to deposit into another on the same day each month. Done and done!
Check in Regularly
Finally, regularly schedule time to check in with yourself and ensure you’re up to date on everything. Nothing fancy—the simpler, the better.
I track my spending and update my budget on Sunday mornings, then update my net worth (balances of all accounts) on the first of every month—that’s it. Each check-in takes no more than 10 minutes, and helps me get a clear picture of my finances, so I no longer worry about where I stand financially.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.