When it comes to personal financial planning, regularly decluttering is a powerful tool that can help you save money, plan for the future and gain control of your finances.
Thinking about the term decluttering, it is usually not related to our personal finances. Perhaps we think about that spare room, kitchen drawer, attic or even our computer files that have not been touched in years!
WHAT IS FINANCIAL DECLUTTERING?
Decluttering is a term that looks at removing unnecessary items from somewhere. In 2019, Offers.com (1) surveyed over 3,000 US adults about decluttering and found the number 1 reason for decluttering was to reduce stress/boost their mood.
So if physically tidying a room can help reduce stress and anxiety, doing this with your finances should definitely have its advantages.
By financial decluttering I am talking about
- looking through your finances – so all bank accounts, credit cards, statements etc.,
- make sure you recognise everything in there,
- sifting out anything unnecessary,
- minimising the number of transactions,
- checking around for better deals,
- neatening everything up,
- creating processes, making it easier to track and follow and avoid it building up too much.
How much of this do you do regularly?
HOW TO DECLUTTER EFFECTIVELY
The thought of decluttering a room fills me with dread. People tend to struggle knowing where to start and what processes to use. This is where a professional declutterer can help you out.
The same counts for financial decluttering, so let’s take a look at a good place to start.
- Make a list of all your bank, savings, investment, pension and credit card accounts.
- Then get your statements for the past year (yes you didn’t read that wrong – the past year is the best way to do this!) A lot of online bank accounts allow you to create statements for a bespoke time period so you are not printing off or creating 12 statements per account. And pension and investment statements tend to be annual.
- Now, go through the statements and make sure you recognise everything on there – I like to do everything online (so I am not creating physical clutter) but some people may prefer paper copies and a highlighter pen.
- Any items you do not recognise, investigate until you know what it is – even if that means calling your bank.
- Usually, when doing this for the first time, you will find something you just do not use or something you did not realise was still charging you. These are usually simple and easy to just turn off!
- Now that you recognise and know what everything on your statements is for, and have got rid of those surprises you forgot about, take another look and ask yourself do you really NEED everything? Just because you are using something, does not mean it is actually good value for money.
- Then you should also look at whether you are paying the best price. Use comparison websites or shop around and see if you can save some money. I have found that some services just need a call and for you to ask what deals they have or whether they can reduce your charges at all – this can lead to significant success.
- And once you have sifted through all your outgoings and are comfortable with what you have left, maintaining this state of order is key.
HOW TO MAINTAIN DECLUTTERED FINANCES
It is one thing to take some time out as a one-off to declutter your finances, but keeping everything tidy and organised is key.
There are quite a few ways you can do this thankfully and I have given some ideas here:
- I like using round-up accounts to keep a regular eye on all our outgoings – these are accounts that take every expense (from bank accounts and credit cards) and then rounds them up to the nearest pound, transferring that difference into a savings or investment account. This way I am checking everything I am spending money on and also enhances my savings at the same time.
- There are also some great apps out there to help with this. These range from budgeting apps to banking apps.
- You could also keep different bank accounts for different purposes. Be warned, if you are the sort of person that can easily lose track of everything, then this may not be the right solution for you. It works wonders for some of us to keep an eye on everything.
- It is important to regularly review your statements and accounts. Add a regular monthly reminder in your calendar to do this. If you are already doing a lot of the above it will just become embedded in your daily activities.
WHY IS FINANCIAL DECLUTTERING IMPORTANT FOR PERSONAL FINANCIAL PLANNING?
Financial decluttering can help us achieve so many things, and is a really important aspect of the financial planning journey.
One of the main advantages is the simple fact that you save money and avoid wasting money. Even the most careful people will likely find ways to economise and reduce their outgoings by going through this exercise regularly. This could mean you will have more money to put aside into your pension, to save up for something or even just to spend on yourself as a treat.
This can also help you take a step back and have a birds-eye view of your finances. This makes it easier to spot any gaps, or shortfalls – perhaps your outgoings are a lot more than you expected (even more than your income), or perhaps your savings are not building as quickly as you would like, or a loan is not being paid down as speedily as it really should be. Whatever your goals are, the less cluttered and muddled your finances are, the easier it is to formulate your financial plan and stick to it.
Sadly these days, we are seeing a rise in scams and financial crime. By having your finger on the pulse of all of your accounts will make it much easier and swifter to detect any fraudulent activity happening within your finances.
I am passionate about financially empowering people and helping them gain control of their finances to achieve financial wellbeing. Decluttering is an important aid to help empower you, and thereby reduce stress and increase your confidence.
By actively taking control of your finances you may also talk more about money – whether in general or to a trusted person. The more we talk about money, the better we can feel and more inclined we are to take action towards becoming financially fit and healthy.
WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?
I agree that this is easier said than done! So if this is something you have never tried before, you don’t need to leap straight in.
Perhaps break it down into smaller chunks to avoid getting too overwhelmed. You could start with the easiest statement to get hold of and then perhaps just look at the top 5 outgoings.
You can build up from there and once you get used to how to do this you’ll be whizzing through all your statements in no time.
And yes, the sooner you start the better, and the quicker you can embed the habit and get into the routine of decluttering the easier it will become.
But if you do feel overwhelmed by everything, or if your financial decluttering has brought up any gaps, you are not alone. There are financial professionals out there – like myself – that can help and you just need to get in touch.
The more people that can financially declutter the better. Do feel free to share this blog, and give it a go. I would love to hear about how you get on – your successes, your frustrations, your learnings.