Simplify Your Finances

By glblguy

Cluttered Desk

In the real world, I manage a group of software developers. Prior to managing, I was a software developer myself. Software developers for all intent and purpose are engineers. Engineers like to solve complex problems with complex and elegant solutions. Doing so is in our nature.

What is interesting though, is through the years I have found the complex solutions are not the best solutions. While they make for great research papers and graduate thesis, they aren’t easy to support, maintain or enhance. They make it difficult for people to learn, and thus training of new developers is difficult and time consuming. Complex solutions cost more money in the long term than simple solutions.

I am a strong advocate of simplicity. I am not sure where I found this, but here’s my favorite definition of simplicity:

Simplicity is the art of maximizing the amount of work not done.

What I like about this definition is the focus on work, and it’s focus on doing less. Simplicity doesn’t mean cheap, sub-par, or quick and dirty. It just means focusing on doing the least amount of work and still meeting what is required.

Ok, so what does this have to do with finances you ask? Time is money right? Assuming you agree time equals opportunity for money than by maximizing the amount of work not done you get more time. Time to do things that bring in income, time to spend with your family, time to work on the house, etc.

I work diligently to simplify as much as I can in my life. It makes things easier and reduces stress. Here are a few ways I simplify my personal finances:

  • Use online bill pay – I pay all of my bills online. I schedule the payments at the beginning of the month and I’m done. It takes all of 10 minutes to do this. No checkbook, no calculator, no stamps, paper cuts. It’s easy.
  • Use Excel to manage my budget - I use a very simple excel spreadsheet to manage my budget and my expenses. Sure I could use Money or Quicken, but the spreadsheet loads fast, I keep it on my flashdrive so I can update it most anywhere, and it’s easy. Money and Quicken are great products, but they are fairly complex. I spend about 5-10 minutes everyday updating my expenses and budget categories.
  • Use debit cards - I use my debit card for almost all purchases. Why? It’s easier to track. With cash I have to write down how I used it, with a debit card I just pull up online banking and there it is. The date, the amount and the merchant. Simple.
  • Have Weekly Budget Meetings – My wife and I have weekly budget meetings. They last about 10 minutes and the purpose is to review the status of the budget so we both know where we stand. If we are over, we decide where to move the money from. If a large unexpected purchase comes up, we move money from the emergency fund.
  • Don’t receive paper statements – I no longer receive paper statements unless I just don’t have another option. This keeps me from having to deal with extra mail, and from having to keep track of the statements. Moving to electronic statements also makes things cheaper for the company you are doing business with (meaning less cost to you) and is better for the environment.
  • De-clutter - Clean out your files. Remove old statements, tax returns more than 7 years old, old checks, etc. Just the act of cleaning up and removing the clutter will simplify. It makes finding things easier, takes up less space, and makes you feel better. Better yet if you can find a few things to sell in the process, than maybe you can even pay off some of that debt, save a little extra, or buy a few stocks!

What do you do to Simplify your finances? What things are you doing today that you spend way too much time on that could be simplified? I challenge you to look for opportunities in your personal finances and in your life in general where you can simplify. After all, how can you turn down less stress and more time?


22 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Simplify Your Finances”

  1. CreditWithdrawal Says:

    Amen!! Like I always told my developers (even though they were sick of hearing it) “I’m a big fan of simple.” And of course, the ole “Make solutions as simple as possible, but no simpler” as stolen from A. Einstein.

    One additional suggestion. Scan in or download all your old bank/billing statements, financial documents, etc., burn to a couple of CDs or mail to yourself at an on-line e-mail (Gmail for instance) but don’t forget to encrypt.

  2. supermom_in_ny Says:

    I’m glad that I visited your site. I found you as one of my contacts on mybloglog.com!

    I not only stopped going to stores when I was **bored**, I stopped using it as an excuse to celebrate, as a pick me up on bad days or even as a meeting place (with friends). I joined the YMCA, to do something constructive and entertaining with my 7 kids. Their friends are welcome to join us…beats spending $$$ at the mall.

    I also haven’t used my credit cards in almost a year. Cash only for me! That’s a big accomplishment for someone that owns 31 credit cards and was a shopping addict….

    Be blessed!!!!!!!!!!

    :)

  3. ChristianPF Says:

    “Simplicity is the art of maximizing the amount of work not done.”

    I love that quote, thanks for sharing – I am with you on all of your points, I just haven’t started eliminating my paper statements yet – that is next on my list!!

  4. Tom Says:

    I swear you just wrote down the exact way I do my budget.

    I absolutely love billpay. It’s so nice to pay everything from the computer without having to go get stamps, wait in line.. you know the drill ;) Think of much time that is right there in our lifetime!

  5. glblguy Says:

    CreditWithdrawl, I think mine are sick of hearing it to ;-) I have the quote hanging outside of my office.

    Great suggestion on scanning. This is something I don’t do, but need to do both at home and in the office. We heard a presentation yesterday from one of our senior executive managers that showed costs for paper and printing equipment. Inspired me to try to go 100% paperless in the office…we’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks for dropping by and for commenting!

  6. glblguy Says:

    Hi, I’m glad you did too :-) Yes I found your site searching around for debt and personal finance sites. I liked your blog, so added you as a contact!

    7 kids! Wow, you’re crazy than we are, we have 6! That’s great, I love big families.

    31 Credit Cards…wow…double wow. Do you still have them or are they gone (i.e. the actual plastic) ?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and hope you hang around! Sincerely appreciate you offering your advice as well.

  7. glblguy Says:

    Thanks, I really like it to. People sometimes mistake simplicity as lack of quality or the reverse associate making things complex shows quality, knowledge, etc. I really like simplicity. Life is complicated enough without things begin complicated.

  8. glblguy Says:

    Forgot to mention I am a mind reader too ;-)

    Thanks for visiting and commenting Tom. Hope you stay with us!

  9. Lynnae @ Being Frugal Says:

    Great post! I pay all of my bills online, but I’ve been afraid to make the leap to electronic statements. I may just have to try though. My desk is always a cluttered mess, and cutting down on the paper would help.

  10. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Lynnae, glad you liked it. You should, they work great and are an exact replica of the paper.

  11. Pinyo Says:

    Great post and congratulation for being the top Editor’s pick for the Carnival of Personal Finance #116.

  12. glblguy Says:

    Thanks Pinyo!

  13. Lynnae @ Being Frugal Says:

    Alright. You’ve convinced me. I’m adding “sign up for paperless billing” to my ever-growing to-do list! :)

  14. Wanderer Says:

    All great advice, I would say. Interesting reading. Definitely adding you to my blogroll over here at the tethered coin.

  15. glblguy Says:

    Wanderer, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the blogroll add!

  16. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    I have mixed feelings about doing more online transactions. One the one hand it is so much better for the environment and especiallt trees! On the other hand I am still very concerned about cyber crime and I’m not convicnced that online banking is essentially safe. Guess for the time being I’ll stick to pen and paper, although I can see the beenfits of less clutter

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