So, you’ve got piles of clothes or papers everywhere, your fridge has inedible old food, and you can’t find anything? Plenty of people live like this. A few even enjoy it. But is it worth paying a premium to be disorganized?
Think about that. With a little organizational effort, you will actually save money! Here are ways to do just that, and make a fresh start for spring.
1. Sell your clutter. That’s right, you can earn cold, hard cash. The old-fashioned yard sale is great and so are the online options such as Craigslist, eBay or (for electronic items) Gazelle. Even Radio Shack now has a trade-in program.
2. Donate. Give away your unwanted items to charity, and take a tax deduction next year. Just be sure to keep records. Depending on the amount of your donation, you also may need to file special forms with your tax return. Check the IRS for details.
3. Get rid of clutter. When you get rid of clutter, you can quickly and easily find your belongings and avoid unnecessary purchases. How many times have you ended up buying a duplicate item for something you already have, but can’t find, in your home?
4. Less clutter. Less clutter means you’ll enjoy your home and your current possessions more. You’ll be less tempted to overspend to brighten up your life with new things.
5. Set aside a day to reorganize. Reorganize your kitchen and you will be amazed at the benefits. I spend less on food because I know what I already have, and I go through cookbooks and plan some recipes that use those ingredients. Try Food.com’s recipe finder.
6. Make meal plans and shopping lists. Another benefit of an organized kitchen is that you will spend less on takeout or restaurant meals by making meal plans and shopping lists. Cook once or twice a week, in quantity, and eat leftovers or use them in different recipes each time if you want.
7. Obviously, you’ll save money by organizing your money. Avoid late fees and higher interest by establishing a bill paying system. I have a really simple system: when I get the bill in the mail, I open it, put it back in the envelope, then write the amount and due date on the outside of the envelope. I keep all the bill envelopes in date order, check them weekly, and pay as needed.
Once a bill is paid, I throw away the paper copy since I can always get backup copies from my account online. Online banking also offers other ways to help. You can set up automatically recurring monthly bills to be paid and then you won’t even have to think about it after that (although you do need to remember to deduct the amounts from your check register).
8. Along with bills, the other big “b” is budgets. Set up a household budget. You don’t need fancy software for this. I actually found excellent pre-designed spreadsheets within Microsoft Excel. In Excel 2007, for example, click “new” then select “budget” and you can choose a template. The math formulas are already programmed in, so all you need to do is enter your numbers. Or go online with Microsoft. By the way, if you don’t own Microsoft Excel, you can still open Excel files (and all other MS office files) with totally free software called Open Office.
9. Clean out the car and save money. If you’re using your trunk to store stuff that you don’t actually need to transport, get it out of there. By lightening the load, you’ll save on gas – more than $100 a year for the average motorist.
10. Finally, avoid the temptation of spending extra money on storage products. Cut down your household clutter and save money at the same time by recycling what you have. Here are some items that can be used for storage: glass spaghetti jars (washed out, of course); coffee mugs, coffee cans with plastic lids, baby food jars; and the old storage standby, shoeboxes.