A well-designed organization system can save you money
Have you ever spent more money than you intended because of a poor filing system or lack thereof? Have you ever missed out on money in your pocket because you misplaced or could not find certain information when you needed it? If you answer is “yes,” you need to take a minute in order to think through where and when you put things. Good organization is an oft-overlooked aspect of good money management. Here are just a few of the areas where it will pay dividends to carefully think through your desk and household organization.
The most important factor in using coupons is knowing when and where to use a particular. If you only use a few coupons once in a while, keeping track of “when and where” is not really that difficult. However, if you are a regular user of multiple coupons, you will need to get organized. An expired coupon is useless and a coupon submitted for payment to the wrong store is not even worth the fractional cash value written in tiny numerals at the bottom of the coupon. What is worse however, is to carry a great coupon through the store, but forget to use it because it is somewhere in the jumble that is the contents of your purse or pocket.
Effective coupon users all have a system. In fact, the need to be organized might be the greatest reason why many people skip couponing at all – they would rather pay the extra money than go to the trouble of figuring out the what, when and where of a coupon. Everyone’s system is different, the following elements must be present for any coupon system to work:
A way to carry the coupons that organizes them according by retailer, by alphabet or according to genre (fruit, meat, beverage, paper goods, etc.). You do not have to carry the entire system with you, just keep it in your car and only carry the coupons that you need into the store. A regular time to add to your collection of coupons and a regular time (I recommend once a week) to sort through your coupons in order to know which ones are close to expiration so that you can use them that week.
Gift cards can also fall victim to messy organization. I am always amazed by the people I meet who mention that they have either lost a gift card that was given to them or forgotten to use it before it expired . . . crazy, but it happens. If you are in the habit of forgetting about gift cards, try to give them away or sell them on Ebay so that someone else can benefit.
We have a corner of a drawer of a desk where we place all gift cards (most come from credit card rewards) and we sort through them on a regular basis to make sure that we know what we have in order to be ready to use them to the greatest financial advantage.
Deal websites can be a great way to have fun and buy things you need, but not if you struggle to keep track of things. I use Ebates, Living Social and Groupon. A Living Social or Groupon deal can be easy to purchase in an instant, only to forget about it and let it expire before using it. Sometimes it is a scheduling issue – a Groupon deal might seem like a great idea for a date or a family outing, but if you do not get your event on the schedule right away, your voucher might expire.
I love the smart phone apps that allow me to carry and use emails containing deals or vouchers electronically. As long as I keep track of my phone, I have everything I need in order to get the best price possible.
Many people do not realize how much organizing their computer files can help financially. For instance, being able to quickly and easily find the right computer file can make a difference when looking for a job. Especially if the various jobs are in different fields and have different resume requirements. You need to get the right cover letter/resume/list of references paired with the right job.
Computer files can also contain vital tax information including deductions, income and expense statements or mileage records. The IRS usually frowns on making that stuff up.
Keeping track of online passwords are yet another use for computer files – especially if your spouse or loved ones need access to your online accounts in an emergency.
I like to label electronic folders according to exactly what is in them and often include dates. Many individuals prefer to to use abbreviations, but I find that abbreviations can become so obscure that they loose their usefulness and can become impossible for others people to use. Thinking through a logical sequence for electronic file storage can help you and others find what is needed in your computer files quickly. Of course, do not forget to back up your electronic files!
Warranty and Purchase Records
Another way that bad organization can cost you money is through misplaced warranty and receipt information. More than once, I have made the mistake of purchasing some kind of relatively expensive electronic device without keeping track of its paperwork. Then, the item has malfunctioned and I was unable to rectify the situation due to the fact that I could not find the warranty or receipt. If I had done a better job organizing in this area, I could have had the item repaired or replaced for free.
Get on it. Sometimes poor organization is just procrastination. It is an easy thing to put off until it is too late. How many times do you find yourself saying, “I used to have . . . and if I could find it . . . it would save me money. . .”? Once you have your organization system figured out, the questions become: What should I keep? and What if we don’t have room? Part of the skill of organization is being able evaluate whether or not something is worth keeping anymore, thus a good organizer will have a plan for when to get rid of things.
On balance, thoughtful organization will save you money. But as anyone who has watched Antique Road Show or American Pickers can attest, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, losing track of a valuable item in a pile of junk can pay off in a big way. Keep in mind though, that this is a relatively rare occurrence and that it is usually one’s great, great grandchildren who benefit. So, unless your pile of junk contains an old baseball card, a signed letter from Abraham Lincoln or a perfectly preserved classic car, you might want to get organized.