This week Mrs. PT and I have been doing a little cleaning and organizing around the house. With all that we have going on it’s easy to get behind on keeping things in order and keeping them clean. But now that we’re through with a few tasks, I feel like some of the weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
For example, I can now look at our house/mortgage files and see several, neatly labeled folders (mortgage, warranty, HOA, closing papers, etc.) instead of seeing a huge stack of papers (how it’s been since the fall of 2007, sadly). It feels good.
I remember my Mom telling me once or twice that a clean house leads to a clean mind. Over the years I’ve really grown fond of that notion: if the area you surround yourself with is clean and organized, then your mind is free to think clearly. Your surroundings, whether that be your living room or your office cube, become a blank slate for your imagination and productivity to really take off.
Can the same be said about your personal finances? I would think so. I know I feel better when I know where my money is going and can see how I’m progressing towards my goals. Let’s look at some of the things we can do to keep our financial house clean:
Know Where You Spend Your Money – If you’ve never done this before, it can be a real eye-opener. Print out your last few months bank statements from your primary spending account. Or, sign up with a website like Mint.com and connect it to your primary spending account. Place all your expenses in categories, like dining, household, gas, etc. Now take a moment to go over the categories and see where your income is ending up.
This exercise is less about beating yourself up over wasteful spending and more about seeing your spending from the higher level. You’ll come away with a better understanding of how you’re spending your money, and encouraged to spend it more wisely.
See All of Your Accounts in One Spot– Another exercise I like to do occasionally is to see all of my financial accounts in one location. I suggest you include all your bank accounts, investments, credit card debt, loans, etc. This (balance sheet type) view will help you determine your personal net worth. A while back I created a dashboard-style spreadsheet that does this for you.
Check Yourself Against Your Goals – Now that you know your savings, investment, and debt balances, check them against your own goals. Need some ideas? Check out my personal goals. You might also consider comparing your net worth to others at your age.
Make a List of Actions – Lastly, it’s important to remember that you can’t always get your entire financial situation organized in one sitting. Especially if it’s been a while if you’ve got in there and cleaned things up. What you can do though is quickly make yourself a nice list of items to tackle over the next few days or weeks. It’s better to walk away with a plan, than to do nothing at all.
Now all that’s left to do is kick back and enjoy that clean financial house that you’ve created for youself.