Clean Finances, Clean Mind

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.

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Last Edited: February 18, 2012 @ 12:51 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. Jessica Griffin says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that cleaning up the paperwork related to your finances will make managing your money that much easier. I follow my own filing system to keep track of my expenses, and this keeps me from overshooting my budget or spending unnecessarily.

  2. PT,

    I am constantly fighting myself with this. I am naturally a disaster of a person when it comes to clutter and messiness, but every so often when I get in the mood I clean hardcore. Whether its my desk at work, my papers at home, etc., it feels great once it is done and my mind actually does feel clearer.

    Go PT’S mom

  3. When our house is in good order and clean, I feel so much better. But cleaning up is one thing no matter whether you clean up your house or your finances. Keeping it clean is yet another challenge.

  4. Knowing where you spend your money, seeing all accounts in one place, and checking yourself against your goals can all be accomplished with Mint! I love their alerts that let me know when I’ve spent too much money in a certain category in comparison to the budget I set. Overspending does not feel good, but being aware that your doing it and changing your habits does.

    Even though a lot of people are not comfortable with using programs like Mint, Wesabe, or BudgetPulse, I’ve found it is the only way to keep my finances “clean” without spending an hour a day keeping track of things.

  5. Great analogy, inspiration, and hints for organizing personal finances, cleaning the mind. Definitely much truth to it!

  6. Russell Abravanel says:

    The best way to stay on track with your budget is to set goals and watch them regularly.

  7. Great post I will be including this post in my weekly round up edition.