Physical and Visual Clues of Financial Organization

Today’s blog is dedicated to my Grandma Lois, who’s birthday is today, June 22. She’d be 114 if she were still alive. It was she who taught me how to balance my checkbook when I was 18 years old; we sat at her very organized desk as she led me through the practice of reviewing my bank statement and filling out the reconciliation form on the back. Little did I know, way back then, that the skills she taught me, and the values she instilled in me would be the foundation of the work I love today.

Financial Organization is Physical

Last time we tackled organizing the small spaces we carry around with us like our wallets, purses and briefcases. One area that I find that often hinders my clients to financial organization is the physical space where they manage their finances. Some lucky clients have a room dedicated to a home office, complete with filing cabinet, desk and bookshelves. Others have limited space, and they need something small and portable. Regardless of your space situation, keeping things simple and uncluttered is the key.

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), “there are no cookie-cutter solutions to any organizing issue because we are all unique. ” That’s why one organizational system works wonders for one person but fails miserably for another. NAPO describes getting organized as a journey, one that requires an investment of time and self-reflection.

  • What does your current space say about your financial organization journey?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • What gets in your way?
  • What’s working?
  • What can you eliminate?
  • What do you need to add?

Financial Organization is Visual

Take some time to visualize the space you really want. Imagine paying your bills and other financially related tasks. How does that make you feel? Write it down, as those feelings will give you clues to how your physical space can support your financial organization journey.

If you get seriously stuck, then it’s time to call in a professional. There are 4,200 professional organizers to choose from, and you start by using NAPO’s website to search by zip code.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of an organized and uncluttered space to work in. Visual clutter is even a study topic at MIT, where they are developing ways to measure it! If you need more ideas on how to tackle that office clutter, check out this article by Janet Taylor on 25 Tips to keep your office organized and running smoothly.

Do you have any organizing tips to share? How have they helped you to a more financially organized life?

Simple Financial Organization By Starting Small

Now that you’ve answered the 3 key financial organization questions and explored your emotional relationship to money, let’s lighten up. Literally. Pull out your purse, wallet, briefcase or backpack. Chances are that if you’re feeling financially disorganized, then these areas have a bit of clutter to clean up. In fact, did you know that May 15 was “National Clean Out Your Purse Day”? The very first step to organizing your finances, is to start with the foundation: your portable money zones.

Empty your purse, wallet or bags that you typically carry every day. First eliminate the trash. Stale cough drops. Gummy lip gloss you’d don’t like to use but have on hand for “just in case.” Toss any items past their expiration date or you haven’t used in ages. For those ladies who tend to carry stuff for others, make a separate pile. Chant this mantra: toss it! Business cards from someone you’d don’t remember from some networking event? Toss it! I suggest using a large surface like the dining room table to sort as well as a trash can handy.

Now that you’ve got a pile of things you want to keep and organize, sort by category. Categories can be: make-up, hair supplies, receipts, money, credit cards, receipts, etc. If you’re carrying four shades of lipstick, that’s probably too many. Pare things down. Remember, you want simple as you create financial organization in your life.

Next up, let’s tackle money, credit cards and receipts.

Are you one to stuff money into the nooks and crannies of your purse? Do coins end up at the bottom? How you handle money provides an important hint. Crumbled and jumbled bills mean a lack of respect for money. Make it a habit to organize the cash in your wallet. Here’s a tip I learned from my Grandmother Lois that really works: When sorted by denomination it’ll make it easier and faster at the checkout stand, and you’ll always know how much money you’re carrying around.

How many credit cards do you carry? If you have one of every kind, including those for department stores, it’s time for simplicity. I suggest having one for personal, one for business if applicable, and leave the rest at home.

If your wallet was stuffed to the brim with receipts, you’re not alone. An easy way to deal with receipts is to separate them into envelopes. Label them accordingly. Here are some examples:

  • Tax deductions
  • Purchases that need to be reconciled with your accounts
  • Medical reimbursements

A little later we’ll discuss how to maintain receipts as part of your financial organization routine so they don’t get out of control.

Now repack your purse, briefcase or backpack. If your purse doesn’t provide the organization you need, consider a purse organizer. In my opinion, they are well worth the investment. You can easily find one under $20. Be sure you don’t over-stuff it; remember the goal is to lighten your load.

Do you have any tips to share that keep your purse or briefcase organized?