If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have gotten the impression that I prefer the 10,000 foot view of my finances:
- I’m a strong Myers-Briggs P type (the J types tend to be more organized)
- A big tax refund is a cushion for me
- Sometimes I forget to follow through on rebates
- I even use The Force when I budget!
This 10,000-foot view is more an offshoot of disorganization on my part than any other reason. This also reflects a deficit of attention to details. A high-up view is a good thing once in a while, and it’s better than having my head in the clouds or having my head in the sand or looking in the wrong place.
Getting an organized handle on my finances — and on a lot of other things in my life — is one of the most important things I can work on now, because the broad strokes that paint the picture I have now can’t capture the little things that add up to a lot of lost money:
- Missed payments. Most of our payments are taken out automatically, but a few aren’t, like our water bill, and the bill can get lost in the shuffle. Late payments cost extra money. Too many late payments result in a dinged credit rating.
- Missed rebates. Rebate deals can be really good. But if you forget to turn the stupid thing in, it’s a really bad deal.
- Missed opportunities. Some folks make money hand over fist with 0% balance transfer offers. I usually don’t even try these because I’m worried I’ll screw them up. Or coupons expire. Or a big refund from Uncle Sam shows up.
- Emergency purchases. You were sure you had another box of diapers and it’s 2 AM and your two-year-old is really, uh, aromatic? The convenience store is a few miles away and the diapers there are two dollars — each!
- Throwing money out the window. That store credit you received when you returned that unwanted gift? The one that was on the slip of paper that was the only record of the credit? The one that the cashier said not to lose because it’s like losing cash?
- Overdraft protection fees. By this I mean the transfer from your savings account to your checking account that happens when you overdraw the checking account but have the savings to cover it. Five bucks a check for a week — when you get the notice in the mail for the first one! — adds up in a hurry.
- Buying things you already have. The one you have is still good, but it’s either buried under something and you can’t find it, or you don’t remember that you have it.
- Extra trips to the store. Another few gallons of gas burned up to take back the item that was the wrong size or to buy something you forgot you needed.
- Dining out a lot. Because you ran out of time in the morning and didn’t pack a lunch.
- Out of control spending. Some people can get away with not tracking their spending — I could for a while — but small leaks in your wallet can grow if left unchecked.
- Stuff breaking before its time. Forgetting to change the air filter in your central air system or forgetting to drain the hose in winter time will cause expensive surprises.
- Spoiled food. Related to the last one.
- Missed tax deductions. Mileage as a business expense? Items donated to the Salvation Army? These can be tax-deductible under some circumstances, but only if you have adequate proof. No proof, no deduction. Or if you take the deduction,
- Overdue charges. Library books, movies, etc.
- Susceptibility to sales pitches. A basic radon test was perfectly sufficient when we had our house inspected prior to purchasing it, but I didn’t know that and paid $100 for a deluxe one that I didn’t really need.
- Huge amounts of lost productivity. I’ve probably spent several months of my life looking for something that I’ve misplaced. Or I’ve been working at 25% capacity because all of the visual and mental noise of disorganization just wears me down; I don’t know what to do or even where to start on a project sometimes.
Organization can pay off large dividends; I’m hoping it does for me. That’s why I’ve added an Organization category.
What other ways can disorganization be costly?