Good morning my friends! Last night was some wild weather. Tornadoes, winds over
50mph, hail, branches falling, my downspout for my gutter was ripped off the house…whew! Crazy! So, now I get to walk around the house, see where my kids’ toys blew, bring the toys back and ask myself why on earth did I spend half of the afternoon raking up my front yard when I KNOW the wind ALWAYS blows the leaves back to our yard?!?! (We live on a cul-de-sac, so the wind blows and somehow ricochets all debris so it lands on our front lawn. I’m not griping; more leaves means more mulch for the garden!)
Well, today we are looking at the coming of Spring, but more specifically…Spring cleaning. This doesn’t mean just cleaning rugs and our cupboards, but cleaning our finances and our heads. First, we need to clean our heads. Take a piece of paper, fold it into thirds and write down all of your bills and the amounts you owe. Be serious about this. This is going to the backbone of all of our Spring cleaning. Write down the fixed expenses you have each month: mortgage/rent; credit cards; car note; cable; internet service; renter’s insurance or PMI; car insurance; child care; tuition; property tax; medical insurance. Write it all down: first column write the item; second column, the amount owed; last column, the amount you pay each month. On a second sheet of paper, write down your variable expenses: gas or transportation fare; tolls; utilities; food; eating out; entertainment. Write down how much you spend per month, average on each item. Believe it or not, you probably underestimated almost every item on the variable list. If you are like my family, you are wondering, “Where did all the money go? My goodness, we just got paid and it’s almost all gone and now we are eating Ramen noodles for the last three days of the month!” By underestimating your expenses, money slips away that is unaccounted for and leaves you and your family struggling more than is needed. We are going to get those expenses under control, even if the method sounds a bit unorthodox.
First: on payday, pay the fixed expenses. If certain bills are automatically debited, then good for you!! The ones that are NOT automatically debited, we are going to discuss now. Before you go out for the evening; before you go buy that fabulous pair of boots that you saw on sale; before you tell your buddies that you will pick up the coffee tab for tomorrow, we are going to talk about those. Look at the amount you were paid on your paystub. Deduct the expenses that are automatically debited this paycheck, and withdraw the rest of it. You can go to a bank and withdraw it or your local ATM. Ask for about ten of those envelopes they give you when you are making a deposit. This will give you a realistic look at the money. When you get home, put the money onto the table, and on each envelope write down one of your bills: water; electric; sewer; cable; childcare…and put the corresponding amount of cash into that envelope. Write out an envelope for groceries; gas or transportation; entertainment; eating out and put the amount you believe you spend into each envelope. One of the methods I like, to keep me from overspending each week at the grocery store is I purchase a gift card to Wal-Mart each week, for the amount I need for the week. When that amount is gone…it’s gone. The cash method for many people works, because it’s easy to scan a card and never see the money you are spending. When you have to actually pass the cashier your hard-earned cash, it gives your heart a tug, because you remember how many hours you worked to make that.
The reason the first thing to do, before organizing your closets, or kitchen or anything else is to organize your finances is so you have an idea of what your disposable income is. If you have only $20 left over after all of your bills are paid, then you will be more likely to organize with items you have on hand, repair items that can be repaired, and make do without, rather than go on a shopping spree and spend $200 at Bed, Bath and Beyond for cute little bins, shelves, brackets etc. using money you don’t have.
Once you have your finances written down, inform the family. Anyone who has access to the funds needs to be on board with this. Write down, or use a spreadsheet to keep track of the finances. Once your finances start spinning out of control, it is very difficult to get your feet back underneath you. Paying cash for purchases will often make you think twice or even three times before making impulse purchases. It will also help protect you from identity theft, as many victims of Target have discovered. Since I started paying cash, items I usually just tossed in the wagon and didn’t think about; I’ve started putting back. By having only $120 per payday to spend on a family of four, for groceries, including my husband’s Friday treat of eating out for lunch, Cheetos, chips, fruit snacks, frozen pancakes, gourmet coffee are often bypassed now. When using a debit card, I didn’t realize I spent over $100 PER WEEK on groceries. Now I have almost the same amount, but have to make it stretch twice as long, I have to make the products I used to purchase, at home. Items I would normally toss or donate…I try to repair. I make my own carpet deodorant; I make my own detergent; my own dishwasher detergent. Rather than run up the energy bill by using the dryer, I hang clothes up in the laundry room or outside to dry. I run the dishwasher only at night, when the energy costs are low. I can my own products; I make my own grape jelly. (Grape jelly, with the full sugar included, at a no-frills store is $1.59 for about 28 oz. For $1, I can buy a can of frozen grape juice, which re-constituted makes 48oz. I use low-sugar pectin, which reduces the sugar content in regular jellies. I can make almost two 28oz jars of jelly, low-sugar jelly, mind you, for less than the cost of one jar of no-frills high-sugar kind.
So first, organize your finances, before you organize anything else. I’m sorry to be such an ogre on a Saturday morning, but it’s very important. I’ve included a link to an article that names and explains five free apps to help you to organize your finances: rollingout.com/strivers-guide/strivers-tech/5-free-apps-help-organize-finances/
Please make it a point to organize your finances. To motivate yourself, promise yourself an inexpensive treat for doing so: an ice cream sundae; an afternoon with the kids at a local park; lunch at a local McDonald’s with an indoor Playland; a visit for an afternoon of coffee and gossip at a friend’s house; a new bottle of nail polish or lipstick or even a small nicely-scented candle at Wal-Mart. No, not a Yankee candle, which is over $25 for a small one; not a whole day at the spa…a small treat. We are trying to nail our finances down, get ourselves out of the hole we are in, without making everyone around us miserable. Together, we can do it. He knits the rope, she ties a loop around it and lowers it; I’ll lace my fingers together to boost you up and you grab that rope so they can pull you out. Then send that rope back down, so we can get others out of the hole. We need to be in this together. Another reason I say we need to be together in this, is so when friends encourage you on payday to go out for a crazy night on the town, you can remember you need to get out of debt. Let your close friends know you are trying to save money and become debt-free. Your close friends will understand and not tempt you to blow your paycheck. The “friends” who keep harassing you and insisting you join them…well, they aren’t your friends, really, if they don’t want you to get out of trouble.
After a harsh post like this, we really need something to make us smile. Toss your cat the tab off of a gallon of milk; throw a ball to your dog in your yard or at a local dog park; listen to your favorite song; sit by your front window and watch the squirrels; sit on your couch with a hot cup of tea (not an iced tea…a hot cup of tea. When you have a hot cup of tea, you are forced to slow down and enjoy the beverage, rather than gulp it down.) Go for a walk around the block. If it’s too cold or wet or dangerous, then leave your debit cards at home so you won’t be tempted to buy anything and go to the mall, or Target or even Home Depot and just walk around. The reason is to get away from the item that caused you stress. Do you knit, or crochet or do needlepoint? Perhaps you have some projects just languishing in a corner of the closet or basement.Allot yourself 30 minutes per day with the project. This includes set-up, actually working on and putting the item away. Take a picture every other day of the item, so you can see the progress. Take out 3 items from your closet that you haven’t used in 6 months and donate it. Call your cousin and give the reason why you called as, “Because I love you.” Hug your child. Get a flowerpot you no longer use, put potting soil in it and cut a snipping of your plant and donate it to a nursing home, or a senior citizen’s center. Plants that do well, by propagating are spider plants, snake plants, pothos, arrowhead plants. These are also easy to care for. Remember, to give yourself a pat on the back for taking the first step, by reading this post. The next step is to start implementing the organization. This method may not work for everyone. But together, we will get through it. Do you have any suggestions about methods to improve the organization of your finances?