Simplify Your Financial Life

As our team meeting got started this week, Pete made the following announcement: “Good news! It’s Marie Kondo week!” A blank expression on my face faithfully masked the internal panic that was rapidly building as everyone else clearly knew who he was referring to. Unwilling to let myself get cornered into a, “what’s your favorite thing about Marie” moment that would reveal my unsophistication, I confessed my ignorance.

“Huh? Who’s Marie Kondo?”

Silence.

It felt as if my honesty had immediately created an uncrossable chasm between me and the rest of my coworkers.

Then, breaking the tension at just the right moment, someone asks in a nearly inaudible high pitched tone, “does this bring you joy?!”

Laughter. Laughter all around. Except for me. I still didn’t know who Marie Kondo was or why the question was funny. I decided to keep my mouth shut and find out for myself after the meeting.

Some quick Googling revealed Marie Kondo is an organizational and decluttering wizard with her own show on Netflix, her own books, and preparatory academy for husbands who don’t “get it”. She helps families simplify their households, and lives presumably, by teaching them her methods. Now, my house could benefit from some KonMari love, no doubt. But, this got me wondering about going all Marie Kondo on finances. What would that look like?

Declutter

Our financial lives are filled with… stuff. Mortgages, car payments, savings, bills, entertainment, subscriptions, unplanned impulse purchases, convenience purchases, and on, and on, and… Many of us have made our lives, financial or otherwise, unknowingly cluttered. We buy stuff we don’t need. We commit to things we don’t have time, money, or energy to do. We then continue the cycle by spending time on social media being marketed to, both blatantly and passively, by companies and friends, the entire time. The result? You mindlessly buy stuff. If we want to be really critical, you (me, too) accumulate meaningless possessions for the silliest of reasons. After a few days of satisfaction, this stuff will serve it’s true highest purpose by merely taking up space in your home. I swear if I gathered all of the junk from my house and my 5 closest friends houses we could put Oriental Trading out of business.

Why do we do it? Why do we have such a difficult time avoiding financial clutter? A few reasons, actually, but that’s a topic for another blog post or ten. Right now, we’re going to discuss decluttering. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Cut back on the plastic: Do you really need 10+ credit/debit/store cards? No. Each of those cards is a little temptation to take “advantage” of a discount, perk, reward, or whatever, and most likely spend more than you should. Let’s be clear about the real reason cards offer reward programs: to incentivize more spending. Consider ditching, or at least removing them from your wallet or purse, all of the non-essential cards.
  • Reroute email: The average US consumer gets 386 emails* from companies each week reminding them of all the deals they should be taking advantage of. Either unsubscribe to those emails or set up rules so they don’t appear in your inbox. Put an extra step in between your eyes and the latest DQ Blizzard of the Month email and I promise you won’t be nearly as tempted to go buy a cup of Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough delight. (*totally made up, yet believable, statistic)
  • Social media purge: There is very little reason to follow or like your favorite retailer or brands. You’re asking to be tempted to buy stuff when you don’t need it. The ads you see are crafted specifically for people with the same information you’ve given the social media site, so of course you’re going to be clicking on the ad to learn more. Keep the pretty shiny stuff off of your screen and out of your face and you magically don’t want to buy it (as much).

“Does this bring you joy?”  

This needs a bit of explanation. Marie asks, “does this bring you joy” when someone is contemplating getting rid of something. If the answer is no, toss it. If the answer is yes, then keep it and don’t feel guilty about it. But you must be honest with yourself.

In our case, I don’t want you to think about something bringing you joy now. I want you to think about your future joy. Again, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we find trouble easier when we focus on deriving immediate joy from a financial decision. If you forced yourself to wait 3 days to make any non-essential purchase, how many would you end up abandoning? And, if you took the money you wanted to spend 3 days ago and saved it, invested it, or used it to pay down debt, would you get the same satisfaction doing those things as you would have by buying some new whatever? Probably not the same, but there will be some for sure. But, picture your future-self being debt free sooner, or with a fully established emergency fund, or being able to retire more comfortably (and maybe sooner). What do you think that will feel like?

Joy?

Yeah, I think so, too. Long after the new whatever has been relegated to the landfill (both physically and mentally), you’ll be enjoying the benefits of making a decision where you valued your future joy at least as much as your current.

Organize what’s leftover.

If this sounds suspiciously like a budget, it’s because I’m talking about a budget. How do you know if you’re making a good joy-promoting decision, both current and future, if you don’t have any idea what you need to do to make it happen? Budgets naturally organize our income and expenses and give us the information we need to make better decisions.

We’ve talked about budgeting and all of its benefits around here a number of times. But, an often overlooked, and critically important, component of budgeting is goal setting. Don’t misunderstand, budgeting for the sake of budgeting is important. But, if you’re going to go to the trouble of budgeting, wouldn’t you like to know why you’re doing it? In fact, if you know why you’re budgeting, and keep reminding yourself of those reasons, you’re more likely to keep budgeting.

Setting financial goals, along with keeping a reasonable budget, helps us stay on track. Staying on track means we’re not filling our lives with clutter-type purchases.  And, avoiding clutter-type purchases means we’re making proper joyful financial decisions. And, finally, making proper joyful financial decisions makes sticking to a budget so much easier. Cue Sir Elton John, because we just entered the Ciiiirrrrcle of Finance.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a little decluttering to do.

Oh and if you haven’t checked out our private group on Facebook, The RePeters, look us up and join. I think you’ll enjoy it!

One thought on “Simplify Your Financial Life

  1. love your blog, just trying to organize for 2019, be more hands on with budget than after the fact on the fly budgeting
    interested in retirement, specifically retiring prior to 67, what to do about medical insurance, first fund to tap in retirement etc…

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