After the super awesome Go Blog Social Conference I attended this past weekend, I got super inspired to get organized both personally and with the blog. The summer was kind of nuts for me, I came back from Argentina to a whole lot of craziness and a ton of grief. But I’m finally getting back into the swing of things and starting to really prep for the impending doom of winter and some really exciting things happening in 2015! To make my life as easy as possible (and to save as much money as I possibly can before next summer) I decided I need to get uber organized. I’ve already started a Monthly Budget to help reel in my spending habits. The struggle is real folks. Maintaining a budget when you’ve never done it before is super hard. But I’m getting better. Getting organized financially has really opened my eyes. And has given me the opportunity to really make progress. Not only am I actively saving, which I had never done before, I’m also actively paying things down and being smart about my spending.
In the last 3 months I’ve made huge strides! I paid off my car in full, which I’ll be in turn selling come the spring. I pay off one credit card in full every month and pay large chunks towards another. Although in my savings account I had started out really strong (I’d be hitting a halfway mark to my goal by now) but I’ve clearly spent a bit of that money on my trip to Argentina, I paid of my car, not to mention prepping my pups for a huge trip is expensive. My budget and my goals make me question whether or not I really need those shoes or not. I’ve got my finances organized (or on the verge of being so) and its time for me to get other areas of my life organized.
Getting organized really increases your productivity.
When I started thinking about this post and how I wanted to talk about getting organized I made a list. I broke my list down into two sections. Getting organized financially and getting organized personally (whether it be your phyisical space or just life in general).
It took me a LOOONNNNGGGG time people to get my shit together. I’m talking 10 years. I’m still working towards getting my shit together. I have an obscene amount of debt (between medical bills and student loans). The only way for me to really tackle this debt and get myself into a better financial situation for the long term, I was in desperate need of organization. Even though I’ve come a long way, I still have a long way to go. So what do I do to get organized?
- Get a snapshot of your finances/debt.
- Pull your credit report. You get one free one a year, take advantage of it! Make sure you know what is on there, what needs to be fixed and make sure there aren’t errors. I had someone elses mortgage on mine for a very long time.
- Figure out your spending habits. I took three months of statements (bank and credit card) and determined how much money I spend each month and on what. Armed with many highlighters and a calculator I was very disappointed in myself.
- Establish some short term and long term goals. I find (for me) starting with the small things really makes me feel more successful. For example, I managed to ignore some very small medical bills ($50 here and $75 there) over the last ten years. Paying those little ones off first makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere. And when the time comes to pay off the whoppers, I can establish a payment plan. My short term goal is to get rid of those small suckers and my long term goal is to eliminate all my medical debt by the end of 2015.
- Get help! It doesn’t mean hiring an accountant or using one of those debt management companies. Ask someone who’s good with numbers and that you trust or someone who’s been in the same position for their help in the process. My sister is a master when it comes to fixing credit. In one year she helped her fiance fix his credit; she got rid of almost all of the issues and boosted his score so high in that short amount of time I thought it was a miracle. I’ve asked her for to help me get mine back up to scratch.
- Use the resources out there that are helpful to you. Try apps like Mint.com for keeping track of all your money and debt. I love it. If using Quickbooks or other software is more helpful to you, use those. Find what works for you. Excel is also an excellent way to keep track of expenses, spending and your goals.
- Keep everything in its place and a place for everything. If you use your computer to track keep a separate folder just for finances. If you use paper then have a separate file just for that. Use a expandable folder, paper trays, a binder or a box to store your bills and receipts. This is one things that I’m working on. I do it at work, I keep a folder of bills that need to be paid and immediately file them once they’re paid. For myself, all my utilities and credit cards get paid online so I go paperless, but medical bills get sent via mail.
- Don’t use cash. Ok this seems to contradict what many people say. Especially those who use the envelope system of budgeting. If that works for you more power to you! For me, cash is gone in an instant and is way more impossible for me to track. I stick to using my card because I know exactly where I spent it. The only time I do use cash is when I have to pay someone back who I can’t QuickPay or if I’m going out. (I use cash when I go out because I can give myself a hard limit of how much to spend)
- Be as detailed as possible when tracking. Another thing I’m working on. Especially when it comes to budgets, being detailed really lets you see where your money is going. If I know I spent $150 on shopping…but can’t remember if it was all clothes or if I spent some on stuff I needed for my apartment then it all gets clumped together and doesn’t give me an accurate budget plan. If you’re detailed you can be more exact when it comes to your next budget.
Getting your life organized can be a beast and long process. But once you get there things just seem to run more effortlessly. I’m making bigger steps to getting myself organized all throughout my life, not just with my finances. One thing that has helped me a ton is purging my crap. When I moved into my studio apartment I had been living in a HUGE 2 bedroom apartment by myself. I was broke, overwhelmed and had far too much stuff for one person. I literally brought 3-4 car loads of random stuff I didn’t use to the Salvation Army. It literally was the biggest relief. Not only was my move a lot lighter, but I was a lot lighter as a result. After purging I felt so great I do it monthly.
Organizing my finances seems like a less daunting task when it comes to organizing everything else in my life. But ultimately I know things will be better as a result of it. Here are my tips to getting started:
- Make Lists! I’m a crazy list maker. If you do a twirl in my apartment you are bound to find a scrap of paper, a notebook or an electronic device with some sort of list on it. I make lists for E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. There are lists in my purse, in my pockets, on my fridge, in my desk…they’re everywhere. I think there are probably lists on my mirrors and walls of my shower written in with my fingers after a steamy shower! Making lists let me see a visual representation of what I need, what I have to do and a collection of thoughts and ideas. Its super useful. Plus there isn’t anything better than crossing shit off and starting a new list.
- I make lists for my groceries, for my goals, to dos and what I need/want.
- An organized space makes life easier and less stressful. When you know where things are, or things have a place to go the clutter doesn’t clutter your mind. This is a new challenge for me! I’m really terrible at putting things a way, but I’ve picked up some good tips! Trays. O.M.G I bought a few trays and use the lids and bottoms of my birchboxes to organize drawers/trays. I even got some smaller jewelry trays that are awesome and have spots for all my earrings and rings. I tend to just throw them all in a pile in a bigger tray but my new little jewelry one is nice. I also invested in some nice storage boxes that are decorative to keep important papers or keepsakes in and out of the way. I like things to be easily accessible yet put away.
- Once you have an organized space and some lists all set, prioritize. Prioritizing is hard. There are obviously things that have to get done, like laundry and dishes (although I wait till the very, absolute last minute to do both) but when it comes to the tasks that are not quite so important I often put them off completely. Its a hard habit to break but I’m starting to schedule in my time to do these things I would rather just avoid (mostly because they’re absolutely time consuming).
- Tackle the big things first or the things you’d least like to do. A lot of my friends who worked with me as consultants for my direct sales business attended a lecture on tackling your to do list. They called the biggest hurdles or objectives your “frogs” If you swallow your biggest frogs you can easily get through your day with all the little easy things that we often like to first. If you tackle the thing you want to do least its going to make your day feel way more productive.
- Establish some clear goals and a plan of how you’re going to complete them. For me I have a list of goals for the blog, I want to reach at least 100 views a day. Which seems small but its a reasonable goal for me to set right now. For me to meet that goal I need to increase my social media posts and consider taking out some ads. I know what my goal is and what I need to do to accomplish it.
- Give yourself a break. If you’re like me you are on the go non-stop. Between work, the blog, spending time with friends, and other various things I’m busy. I have to let myself say hey, today I just want to veg out and watch tv. Allow yourself to have that time.
- PLAN AHEAD. This is one thing I am really working on. Especially when it comes to the blog. Knowing whats coming up allows for me to keep on top of other things and plan around things. For the blog, knowing what posts I’m writing this week and next week or even for the whole month let me write one at a time ahead of time or lets me write two in a day if I’m feeling motivated.
- Don’t spend too much time on administrative stuff. We could get sucked into hours of emails, paying bills, entering random data into our spreadsheets or tracking things on a daily basis. Set aside a few hours ONE day a week to tackle it all in one sitting. Do your emails once a day. Spreading it out over the course of the day/week wastes a lot of time.
- Find a system that works for you. If you are super high tech and use all the gadgets then utilize them all and sync them! I use notebooks and planners but I make sure to transfer right to my iphone which is synced to my computer at home & work, plus my ipad. That way I’m always with my calendars, lists and apps that help me stay on top of things. Figure out what works for you and stick to it! If a method doesn’t work, seems obvious, but try something else.
If you invest a bit of time upfront in your personal, professional and financial life to get organized. Life is a lot less stressful. You know what to expect (other than the unexpected) and can plan accordingly. You’ll get more done, complete your goals and feel great about it!
What do you do to stay organized?