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Our lives are hectic and messy.
We run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Household responsibilities get ignored. The laundry doesn’t get done. Mail piles up. The lawn grows into a jungle. Our house slowly turns into a shit heap.
Guess what? The same thing happens with our finances.
Life gets crazy and our finances don’t get the love and attention they deserve. They turn into a cluster of unknown checking account balances, unpaid bills and out of control spending habits.
So how do we keep everything together when we barely have time to put dinner on the table?
Maria Kondo a tidying expert, best selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and star of the Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, suggests that decluttering and organizing our homes can magically change your life.
Hmmm… if decluttering and organizing your home can change your life, what would happen if we applied her concepts to our finances?
Let’s look at three Maria Kondo-inspired tips to declutter your finances to find out.
1. FIND YOUR WHY: IMAGINE YOUR IDEAL LIFE
Spoiler alert: this first KonMari inspired tip is not so much about decluttering and organizing, but more about how to find the motivation to even get started.
We all know it’s hard as hell to change habits.
Each crazy day we rely on routine, our habits, to make our lives easier and more sane.
Altering these ingrained tendencies is truly a difficult task.
So how do we make it easier, more likely, that we will change our ways?
Maria Kondo suggests that the answer lies in visualizing the destination to find motivation. I think of this as finding your “why”. I know it may sound hippy dippy, but hear me out.
Apparently our brains are not capable of distinguishing between actual memories and visualized ones. Say what?
When you repeatedly visualize and imagine how you would feel if you accomplished a goal, your mind eventually starts to make connections and believes it’s an actual memory.
Pretty cool, huh?
If you don’t believe me or want to read more about this concept, click here.
How to apply this to your finances
Let’s say you want to start taking control of your finances by budgeting.
Before you even think about how you are going to execute a budget, take the time to visualize why you want to take on such a task.
Do your best to think in concrete terms. What does your life look like if you successfully maintain a budget? And maybe more importantly, how does it feel to take control of your finances?
For me, when I started my budgeting journey I envisioned:
- A sense of calm in knowing I had a plan
- Happiness when I was laying on the beach with a tiki drink after saving money for a vacation
- Security in knowing that I planned for my future
Visualizing and feeling these ideas helped motivate me to stick with my goal of budgeting. And I’m happy to report that so far it’s working.
Once you take the time to think about and feel how life would be like when you accomplish your financial goal, you’ll be more motivated to accomplish it.
2. DOES IT SPARK JOY?
If something sparks joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t, discard it. Boom!
This is one of the biggest takeaways I had from reading Maria Kondo’s book.
This simple concept is all about surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy, which is totally relatable to how we approach our discretionary spending.
Sometimes the concept of “bringing joy” is a little hard for me to wrap my head around. So I like to think of it in terms of “is something worth the money to me”.
Consider how easy it is for us to spend money without even thinking about it. We see something on sale and buy it even though we may not love it or need it.
The challenge is to think critically about each purchase and whether it will truly bring you joy. Thinking on these terms helps minimize spending but it also helps you feel less guilty about purchases.
I love coffee. Expensive coffee. I may actually be a coffee snob. But it’s ok, as it brings me so much enjoyment. I budget for the expense each month because I know that my morning cup of joe is going to be a highlight of each and every day. It’s a large part of my grocery budget, but because it brings me joy and I planned for it, I don’t feel guilty about it.
Getting in the habit of intentionally thinking about your spending in terms of whether or not is will spark joy or worth your hard earned money, is a great way to start feeling good about your finances.
3. GET RID OF THE CLUTTER
Now that you have a sense of your why and understand how to think about your expenses critically, it’s time to clean house (or wallet or bank account or whatever it is that needs some love in your financial world).
Finances, when left to their own devices, can get messy, just like a house. Unfortunately, these messes add stress to our lives. Making an effort to tidy up your finances is a great way to combat this dilemma.
It’s that simple.
How to tidy up your finances
- Cut the clutter from your expenses. Spend time looking at your expenses, find ones that are no longer serving a purpose, and eliminate. Maybe you find a magazine subscription you no longer read. Or discover that you don’t really use your gym membership during the summer. Your mission is to search and destroy.
- Automate your money. The less you handle your finances, the less likely they are to turn a mess.
- First, authorize your employer to directly deposit your paycheck into your checking and/or savings account.
- Second, sign up to autopay your bills so you don’t have to think about it.
- Clean out your wallet. Take inventory of your credit cards and keep only the ones you use. All those store-specific cards you opened to get 15% off your purchase that you no longer use? Get rid of them.Note: If you are worried about how closing accounts affects your credit score, check out this Nerd Wallet post.
- Start a Budget. This is by far the best way to keep your finances organized. It also makes your finances fully visible, which helps surface those sneaky expenses you forgot about.Research and try different budgeting methods or software and stick with the one that works for you. You Need a Budget (YNAB) clicked for me, but others rave about Mint or Pocket Guard.
There you have have it. Four ways to clean up your messy finances.
Challenge: Go Tidy Up Your Finances
Now that you know how to tidy up your finances in the zen like fashion of Maria Kondo, I challenge you to find your why and start turning that financial shit heap into a immaculate palace.
They don’t have to be huge changes. Start with something small like cleaning out your wallet or cancelling an unused monthly subscription. The small wins are what gets the ball rolling, and they feel soooo damn good.
Go ahead, clean up your mess, and surround yourself with things that spark joy. You got this!