I must admit, I get a huge feeling of satisfaction from seeing things all neatly lined up, sorted or labeled. With a full-time job, four kids ranging in age from 4 – 14 and an active household, being organized is tightly tied to my ability to (sometimes barely) maintain my sanity. While I realize going through the process of organizing is about as fun as making a *yawn* budget to most people, it is as essential to your financial well being. Let me explain.
Being organized allows me to think. When I feel like I have things somewhat under control (I can find what I need, I know what I need to do, etc.), then I can think through those situations where my first reaction is to spend money. So, when the dryer breaks and I am tempted to run out and buy the first shiny appliance I can find, I feel like I have the capacity to just hang dry some things for a few days while I find out what is wrong with the dryer, what it would take to fix it, have it repaired or research a new purchase at a good price. Situations like this can range from small savings up to hundreds of dollars.
Being organized allows me to use what I have. When Halloween nears, I not only know that I bought 30 Halloween pencils for my first grader to share with his class this year (which cost me $1.50 and is way better than candy), I know where to find them. With my batteries all in one drawer, I can use what I have, rather than buying more and discovering that I already had a 48-pack in the house two weeks later. I realize these can be small savings, but just like calories, it is the little things that add up over time.
Being organized allows me to prevent panic purchasing. When my four year old wakes in the night with a high fever, I already have unexpired medicine that I bought during a sale or at least at a decent price at the end of summer, well before the flu season struck. Instead of running out to a convenience store and paying nearly double at 3 am, I get what I need from my medicine cabinet, soothe my son back to sleep and go back to bed. When we need ketchup, we grab it from the pantry, where I stocked it when it was $.50 a bottle, and I save money by not buying it at full price when I need it. Again, small savings that add up.
Being organized prevents waste. A quick glance into an (somewhat, depending on the day) organized refrigerator allows me to plan out the week’s menus to use up the lettuce, sour cream and cheese before it goes bad. Being able to inventory the freezer allows us to enjoy our steak before it is freezer burnt and the strawberries before I can’t remember which year I froze them and have to throw them out (yes, it has happened).
Being organized allows me to troubleshoot. When I have a week’s worth of meals planned out, I am far less likely to go out to eat. When my day runs more smoothly because I planned ahead, I am less tempted to treat myself to a purchase while running errands (“I deserve this new vase – I need a treat after my hectic day/week/month/decade!”). When I have the teachers’ holiday gifts all set to go in November, I am less likely to over compensate in a guilt-stricken, overpriced panic the day before school lets out for winter break.
Being organized allows me to purge. When you can clearly see all that you have, you can easily pick out those things that are not useful to you or of which you may have too many. Being organized allows me to donate to charity (which is a tax deduction) and to donate to our local food shelf (again, tax deductible) – both of which are so much more than financially satisfying.
True to the saying, no one is perfect, so sometimes I fail despite my good intentions. That being said, I am set up for success far more than failure by knowing what I have, being able to access it easily and planning ahead. I trust that these practices save me time and money, so I try to use my time to prepare for life rather than spending my time trying chase after life. So, if you are reluctant to get organized, consider just how much money (not to mention time and stress!) you can save by planning ahead and organizing.