Friday, November 24, 2017

Clutter & Money

Four years ago, when I officially switched industries and moved across the country I had to do some considerable down-sizing.  I was moving from a 1600 square foot house on the west coast, to a one-bedroom apartment of approximately 500 square feet in New York City.  We really got rid of a ton of stuff, and it wasn't exactly easy.

I'm really big on visualizing the life I want.  I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction and taking appropriate steps to achieve that which I'm visualizing.  When I close my eyes, I see myself living in a clean place with nice things, though not a lot of them.  What's funny is that there isn't typically much "stuff" that I can see in this vision.  I mean, I'm sure I have stuff, but it all seems to have its place.

When I look around my apartment, it feels worlds apart from my vision.  While I've downsized a tremendous amount, I still have clutter.  While I probably don't have any more clutter than most other people, the clutter I see around me gets in the way of my ability to actually fully enjoy the possessions that I truly love.  This sparks an interesting debate at my house.  While it's by no means an argument, we do have somewhat opposing views on the issue.

My partner's perspective is that while we've been making this apartment work for us, it is entirely too small.  She feels that our space isn't conducive to our lives.  Honestly, she's at least partially right.  You see, our apartment is greatly lacking in the "storage" vain.  There are two tiny, bedroom closets for the entire space.  That's it.  But you see, there is some "stuff" you just need in your life.  Most people have more than one set of sheets, more than one bath towel.  If you have no linen closet, where do they go?  While I could go through plenty more examples of this nature, I'm sure you see the point.

My view on our issue is that we still just have too much stuff.  If we had less of everything, it wouldn't solve all of our storage issues, but it would certainly help.  The truth is that we're both right.  Something as simple as a linen closet would alleviate some problems.  We could also get rid of some more things.

We did a 30-Day DeCluttering Challenge this summer and got rid of lots of things.  We still have some ways to go.  We also don't let things come in without something going back out of our space.  This also helps.

There is a direct relationship between our clutter and our money.   First, and perhaps the simplest is that clutter in your space equals clutter in your mind.  If your mind and space are full of clutter, how can you be your most organized self financially?  Next is the more complicated explanation.  It's the fear of financial insecurity.

Those of you who've read The Effects of Growing Up Poor know my background.  When I was a child, we didn't have money for many extras.  Sometimes we had to wait for the things we needed, and could get them immediately.   When your resources are limited, you hold on to what you have. It makes perfect sense, but also has psychological implications for the future.  Now, I have enough money.  I make a good living, and I can buy the things I need easily.   Regardless of this socioeconomic progress, when I am about to get rid of something, I suddenly get this overwhelming feeling.    The feeling is quickly accompanied by a voice in my head that says things like "What if you need this?  What if you suddenly want it?"  There are so many years of built up experiences telling me that replacing possessions is difficult.  This is a little hard to admit, but if I am perfectly honest, I think I have a deep-seeded fear of not being able to get the things I need.  It's a fear of financial insecurity.  I am genuinely afraid of "not having enough money," and that bleeds over to my possessions.  I don't spend much time talking about fear because I don't care to lend power to fear by giving it my energy, but I think for the case of today's post, it's worth it.  I am working through this fear with a fair amount of success.  I have to remind myself of some things:  I have enough money to replace these items if I actually need it in the future.  If my life isn't improved by having a possession, I can let it go.  I am financial secure now.

Additionally, sometimes, I have guilt about getting rid of things that were "given to me."  I have learned to remind myself:  No one that loves me wants me to keep items that are no longer beneficial to me just because they might have given it to me.  My uncle won't cry because I no longer have the t-shirt he gave me 5 years ago.

I have released myself from the obligation to keep things that don't improve my life.  Debt doesn't improve my life, neither does clutter.  So, that being said, I am clearing them both out of my life.

Have you noticed a relationship between your money and your clutter?  I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts below.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

10 Things To Do With A Bonus

Everyone loves getting bonuses at work, right?  Working in education, bonuses don't really apply to me.  So I rarely think about them...  That is until now.  This month I am getting a bit of a bonus as a result of the most recent teacher contract.  This is money that isn't a part of any budget or savings plan I currently have underway.  So, the real question is:  What do I do with this money?  Just thinking about it gets me super excited, and inspires me to create this list.

1.  Pay Off Credit Card Debt

If you have credit card debt, this is a no-brainer.  Your bonus could go a really long way toward paying off some unwanted debt.

2.  Make an Extra Mortgage Payment

Just one extra payment per year will shave thousands off your grand total, and allow you to pay your house of years sooner.  Not a bad plan for money you didn't know was coming.

3.  Contribute to Your Roth IRA

I say, get this surprise money working for you!  If you haven't maxed out your contributions for the year, use that bonus to get yourself just that much closer.  You can contribute $5500 per year if you're under 50.  Let's get that thing maxed out!

4.  Fund Your Emergency Savings

Do you have 6-8 months of your expenses in a savings account yet?  If you still haven't reached that goal, putting your bonus into your emergency savings account will buy you some added security.  Honestly, you really can't put a price on peace of mind.

5.  Fund Your Holiday Savings Account

I only spend money that I actually have for the holidays.  That being said, you could use your bonus to pad your holiday savings account, and enjoy your holiday season minus the stress!  Of course, this move doesn't allow your money to grow or save you a bundle like the others, but I say, if you keep yourself from using a credit card during the holidays, it's a total win.

6.  Fund Your Vacation Account

Listen, I am so guilty of burning the candle at both ends that it's not even funny.  So, every year I take great pleasure in planning a vacation that will allow me to rejuvenate myself.  Much like with holiday spending, I don't pay interest on vacations.  I don't take vacations that I can't afford.  If the money's not there, I'm not going anywhere.  So, fueling the vacation account might just be worthy of your bonus.

7.  Home Organization

It's no secret I've been on a decluttering mission this year, and I still have a way to go.  I really do feel like my belongings, my home, and my systems of organization all have a direct relationship with my finances in a lot of ways.  I'm only going to briefly mention two of them right here.  First, how can we really keep our financial affairs orderly when our living space is a disaster?  Secondly, the more we enjoy our own space, the more satisfied we'll be staying home in order to save money.  So, if there's something you've put off buying that will greatly improve the way your space functions organizationally, maybe it's worth using a little of that bonus money to take care of it.

8.  Home Improvement Project

This is similar to the previous item.  If you've delayed funding a home improvement project, and your bonus could cover it, go for it.  Some home improvement projects could make your home worth more (if you own it).  Even if it doesn't increase your home's value, if it makes your home function significantly better, it might be worth the money.

9.  Buy Some Stock

You obviously want to wait for the price to be right, but if you've been eyeballing some stocks, or looking for an opportunity to get into the market aside from your retirement funds without disrupting your monthly budget, this could be the money to use.

10.  Pay Down Miscellaneous Debt

Maybe you don't have credit card debt, but if you have any other loans laying around, your bonus could help you to pay it down more quickly.  Think:  car loans, student loans, personal loans, etc.

What am I doing with my bonus?  I am putting it into our holiday savings account, which we will use for our annual pajama exchange.  We also plan to buy something to improve our space with our holiday funds.  So, my bonus will hang out in savings for a couple of months, and then it will be used largely to improve our space.