With files stuffed away into folders or deep in your computer, it’s often impossible to keep an eye on your finances and stay on tops of things. As a result, you could struggle to save money.
But before you think about managing your finances, it’s a good idea to declutter and get organised.
‘When people lose control of their paperwork, they lose control of their finances,’ says professional organiser and author of Start With Your Sock Drawer
, Vicky Silverthorn
‘Cluttered surroundings can hinder clear thinking, preventing people from locating what they need. This forms a block that only gets worse if organisation steps aren’t taken.’
Vicky says the systems people often use are often too complicated to maintain.
1. Get on top of your paperwork
Gather all your paperwork from around the home and put it in one place.
‘Wherever it’s being gathered, make sure this room is out of bounds for a few days at least,’ suggests Vicky.
‘Divide the paperwork into categories such as bills, pension, car and so on. Then go through the piles and sift out the things you don’t need.’
Vicky says it’s important to stop when you feel tired or overwhelmed.
2. Make computer files correspond with your paper files
To help stay organised, store your paperwork in filing cabinets that match the details you have on your computer.
‘If you have some finances stored digitally, make files on your computer that correspond to the headings in your cabinet. Saving files under the same headings will keep your system simple and streamlined,’ explains Vicky.
3. Make an 'action' pile
Often, you’ll come across things that need immediate action. Don’t let this get mixed up with other paperwork and instead make an ‘action’ pile – whether it’s getting advice on your pension, reviewing a service provider or paying a bill.
According to life coach Cat Plummer
) it’s important to schedule financial planning into your diary.
4. Book it in the diary
Cat suggests you schedule at least 30 minutes into your diary every month after pay day to plan your finances.
‘You know it’s going to be the same every month, and as you’ve just been paid it means you won’t panic. You can look ahead and plan in confidence, see what money is in, check what will come out, and budget for any special occasions well in advance,’ she explains.
5. Small wins
If you’re struggling to find the time, try not to take on too much in one go.
‘Make it about small wins to begin with – if you try and do too many big things early on, you will just be put off. Start with simple, achievable tasks, such as reviewing your home insurance,’ suggests Cat.
6. Set goals
To make sure you get things done, it’s a good idea to have goals – whether they’re short-term or long-term.
For example, if you’ve put off retirement planning
because you haven’t had the time, then focus on where you want to be when you can start taking out your pension and incorporate those goals into your monthly financial planning.
‘A pension is one thing people put off, but it’s something that they need to look at every month and start planning for the long term as early as possible,’ says Cat.
Our article on the key life stages of retirement planning
can help you prepare, no matter how old you are.
7. Automate your tasks
One of the best ways to save time is to automate as much as you can, such as bill payments by using direct debits. Many companies will also offer a discount if you pay bills by direct debit – just make sure you always have enough in your account when the money goes out.
‘You can set reminders for things like insurance renewals and other services using the calendar on your mobile phone,’ says Kalpana Fitzpatrick (@KalpanaFitz
), financial journalist and founder of Mummy Money Matters
8. Set time limits and block distractions
We’re all guilty of a little procrastination. To avoid this, give yourself a time limit to complete tasks so they don’t drag on.
For example, you may give yourself 20 minutes to check bill payments or 10 minutes to check in on your pension or online bank statement.
‘Avoid distractions such as social media by leaving devices in another room while you’re doing your admin,’ she adds.
9. Make small to-do lists
If you’re guilty of making long to-do lists, then stop – it’s often overwhelming, especially if you just keep adding to it every day.
Instead, make a small list every day, consisting of just three or four things, which you will complete that day.
‘Make at least one of those tasks related your finances, even if it’s just checking on your bank account,’ Kalpana says.
10. Ask for advice
A quick conversation with a pension adviser
could really help you gain a new perspective on your finances.
‘By asking a professional to look at your pensions and then help you make decisions, you will save hours investigating and auctioning yourself,’ says Jon Turner, Pension Transfer Specialist at LV=.