Being organized pays off in more ways than just saving time; good organization skills affect one’s lifestyle, tidiness, and can even save you money. It also gives people a glimpse at your thought process.

I’ve known many in my profession who are terrific at what they do, yet they lack organization. Their rooms appear in disarray and many probably associate that to mean chaos – which can sometimes occur in a classroom of disorganization. Not being able to find important paperwork and fleeing flustered is often the result. Construction paper, handouts and pencils become hidden amongst the clutter and dust bunnies and other unsightly grime build up. Not exactly the environment most parents want for their children.

Some might also begin to think that the disorganization is a result of not caring about a task or job – if a person doesn’t want to spend the time organizing their belongings, they obviously don’t care. In contrast, a person who is organized, knows exactly where everything is and gives the appearance of being on top of their possessions appears in control.

That’s not to say orderliness or tidiness is all that’s needed to be in control or top in your field. Plenty of disorganized people are geniuses and vice versa. Yet, there’s always the possibility that a disheveled appearance may be equated with not being able to handle a task or job and in this competitive and ever-shrinking job market it’s important to look like you know what you’re doing.

If we look at finances and the ability to manage paperwork, bills, investments, and every day transactions, organized people usually know exactly where their money is going. Compare this to generally disorganized people who may frequently over-draft their bank accounts, skip bill payments, and feel like their money is slipping between their fingers (an analogy not too far from the truth).

So how can a disorganized person become more systematic with their finances? It’s really not all that mind-boggling. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Prepare a filing system. A small filing crate or drawer is a good start. Bills, passwords, and every day accounting information needs to be included.
  • Color-code using folders or files. Having a folder or file folder for each category and color-coding it makes bills, investments, and account information easy to find. For instance, bills might be in the red folders, investments in the blue folders, etc.
  • Create a calendar and place it in the front of the file drawer or box. Print a generic monthly calendar. On the calendar, highlight and mark dates when most bills are due. For instance, if you know your insurance is due the 1st of every month, highlight it in one color and mark it on the calendar. If most of your credit card bills are due on the 15th, highlight and mark the date a couple days ahead of time, like on the 10th, so you avoid any late fees. Having a digital copy of this is a good idea, but for people just getting a handle on organizing their paperwork, a hard-copy in the file drawer is a good reminder.
  • Use Auto-debit. If paying bills late is a problem, set as many accounts as possible to auto-debit by their due date. Make sure you mark it in the calendar and deduct the expense from your spreadsheet…which leads me to tracking expenses.
  • Track expenses. Using a simple excel spreadsheet write down expenses daily. This will help track where your money is going. An accounting program like Quickbooks or Quicken will also do this as long as expenses are entered daily.

Obviously, there are lots of other ways to organize finances, but this is a start for those that need to begin with baby-steps. I personally use a color-coding folder system and make sure the file doesn’t become too cluttered. Since most of my bills are paperless, I don’t collect too much paperwork. I also use my Outlook calendar to track due dates so I never miss a bill and auto-debit as many payments as possible.

Using this system has allowed me to stay on top of my finances and feel more in control.

How do you organize your life and finances?

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