Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Money Management category.

I Don’t Like Shopping

I don’t like shopping. There, I’ve said it. I have many friends, and clients, who enjoy a little (or a lot of) retail therapy here and there, but I just can’t quite seem to wrap my head around it. I can still distinctly remember my last impulse buy, 3 years ago. We had family staying with us, and they had given us some money to contribute toward their share of the groceries. Money doesn’t tend to burn a hole in my pocket, by any means, but as I went out shopping that day, I saw it: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Edition, on sale for nearly the same amount as I had been given. It was screaming at me, “DEAL! DEAL!” and so I bought it. When I got back, I told my husband, and he nearly fell over. He was just saying to the others that of the 3 of us who went out, I would be the least likely to buy anything (and it’s true!). So, did I use the game? A bit. But it’s collecting dust now… And I was completely disappointed in myself.

I asked him if we should return it. He asked me if I thought I would use it, and enjoy it, and I insisted that I would, so he encouraged me to keep it. But I still felt bad. You see, we are currently debt free (YAY!). When we got married we had some debt, and we wanted to get out from under it. You’ve heard me mention Dave Ramsey before, and we used his methods to snowball ourselves out of the comparatively small mess we were in. This purchase set us back a bit, but I realized then that I really don’t enjoy shopping.

Clothing? Nope. I have a “shapely” figure, so it makes it difficult for me to find jeans that will fit my hips. Toys/Games? Not really. I get bored easily, and I hate to spend money on something that I just won’t use long term. Makeup? I don’t wear any, except for maybe twice a year. Food? Well, that one I don’t mind as much, but I find myself getting frustrated at the quickly inflating prices. Jewelry? Again, I rarely wear it. Gifts? Oh! Don’t even get me started! This last Christmas I found myself calling my Mom in a panic, not knowing what to buy anyone (and only wanting to purchase useful items, instead of dust collectors).

You see, the only time I even enter a mall is when I have a specific purchase in mind. I make a beeline for the store that will likely have what I’m looking for, walk straight to my desired purchase, cash out, and leave. I can physically feel myself getting anxious as I walk in. Perhaps it’s the number of people (although I’m pretty outgoing). Perhaps it’s the frustration of seeing so many families inside on a beautiful day. But I think, largely, it’s the fact that people spend money simply to waste time (double waste, really). I was about to go on a tangent about ethical shopping practices, and how our consumerist society is spurring on poverty in other countries, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Today, I will say this: I don’t like shopping, and I’m okay with that. Generally, it means that I have more cash in the bank, and I spend my time doing other things that I enjoy, and that will give me longer lasting rewards (reading, gardening, spending time with the hubby, saving for retirement).

Do you like shopping? What do you like shopping for?

P.S. Anyone in Toronto looking to purchase a slightly used Wii Guitar Hero Game? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Soap Sliver Solution

Happy Friday everyone! For a change of pace, I thought that I would share with you one of my favourite tips of all time.

I would first like to thank my beautiful Mom (Happy Belated Mother’s Day/Early Birthday), who has been using this technique since I was little, and I’ve always thought it was a great idea. The dilemma: What do you do with all those little soap slivers you accumulate as you near the end of the bar? It feels like such a waste to throw them out. In an episode of The Simpsons, when money was rather tight, everyone was asked to tighten their bootstraps. Little Lisa decided to gather these random soap slivers and smoosh them all together into a soap ball. Well, this is a variation on that technique.

Take an old plastic container (I use an old yogurt container) and the plastic netting used to hold onions together (you may want 2, but that’s up to you). Then, you place the plastic netting in the plastic container, like you would put a garbage liner in a bin. Place all your old slivers into the netting. When you have enough, simply tie a knot in the netting, and you have an automatic loofah of sudsy soap bits ๐Ÿ™‚ I use the second netting to hold my next batch while I use up the current one.

P.S. It lather beautifully ๐Ÿ™‚ Just make sure that you have a soap saver (the plastic disc that creates a space between your dish and you soap), or else the soap will be very soft.

Do you have a way to use up old bits and pieces around the house?


Coupon Clutter

I enjoy saving money, as do most of us. I am more than happy to grab coupons on my way into the store (they often have a board by the front door), or cut them out of the mail or newspaper. I’ll print them online if it’s really worth it. However, I believe that coupons create clutter.

I am not referring to having piles of coupons scattered throughout the house (a lot of couponers have their coupons neatly organized in a binder, or accordion holder). Nor am I talking about having stacks and stacks of invalid, expired coupons (make sure you go through them at the beginning of the month, and check the expiry date). What I am referring to is the need to purchase items because they are on sale, or at a “discount”.

When I watch the “Extreme Couponing” programs on TV, I am astounded at the quantity of items they have stored in their homes. They have mini grocery stores in their basements. The participants have had to purchase shelving (presumably on sale, or with a coupon) in order to store all of their “finds”. Coupons will sometimes offer a “buy one, get one free” type of deal, or “buy one, get one half price”. Either way, they are promoting the idea of purchasing multiple items in order to get the best deal. On one of the blogs that I follow, one couponer purchased 36 packages of Advil Cold and Sinus, because they ended up being $.99 each (regularly $8.99). Sure, it’s a great deal, but honestly, unless you suffer from some serious immune system issues, there is no way you can use all that up before they expire. Sure, you can use them as stocking stuffers, but I still maintain that 36 seems a bit excessive.

Let’s establish some ground rules:

1. Only buy it if you would typically purchase it – even if the item is at a drastic discount. It’s only a discount if you’ll use it.

2. Only purchase a reasonable amount of the discounted product. If you can’t use it before it expires, don’t buy it.

3. Consider your space. Your space has value, so use it wisely. If you don’t have the space for the discounted item (say 400 rolls of toilet paper), then it will be more taxing on your stress level than your pocket book.

Do you use coupons?


5 Easy Steps to a Warmer Winter

For a mere $30, you can essentially shrink wrap your windows to keep out drafts and decrease your home heating bill. This is our second year doing this, and we have certainly noticed the difference. It is quite simple to do, and you can easily do it in an evening. Your kids can even help! Well, ages 8 and up at least ๐Ÿ™‚ Here is a quick step by step tutorial to a warmer winter:

1. Measure the area you want to seal off. The rolls of plastic that we purchased were folded, so we didn’t have a problem with size. It will even comfortably cover patio doors. Make sure you allow for a little extra, just in case. Cut the plastic accordingly.

2. Put the provided double sided tape around the window. We have not had problems removing the tape (i.e. pulling off paint) 6 months later, but test a small area first, just to be sure. Make sure you create a seal by overlapping the tape at the corners.

3. Put up the plastic while trying to keep it as flat as possible. My husband did this by himself last year, so it is doable if you’re going solo, but it is certainly helpful to have a second pair of hands. Word of advice: do the top first, then slowly go down the sides. Don’t press too firmly until you are sure you’re happy with how it looks. Don’t worry if it isn’t flat, that will happen. When you are happy, press the plastic firmly to the tape. *Please note that when you put up the plastic, if you have ย blinds, you won’t be able to adjust them until you remove the plastic. You will need to chose how you you would prefer to have them for the duration of the cold months. We chose open, because we have drapes to cover the window, as well.

4. Heat up the plastic using a hairdryer. As you heat up the plastic, you will notice it starting to become taut. As it stretches, you will start to notice ripples. Simply heat the area, and they will disappear. The more diligent you are in this step, the better the final outcome – you will barely even notice it there. When we had the plastic over our bedroom window last year, I repeated went to move the blinds so that I could look out to our backyard, but was stopped short. You honestly won’t notice it.

 

5. Lastly, simply trim off the excess plastic – it comes with a cutter, so this should be straightforward. Don’t get too close to the edge, though. As you can see, you can barely tell that there is anything over the window. Be sure to tell your children not to poke the plastic – if you get a hole in it, it will defeat the purpose.

 

Here’s to a warm winter, and a lower heating bill! Do you have any money saving tips that can be accomplished through simple home adjustments?


New Year’s Priorities

Let me start off by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! I hope that it is full of fun and laughter, and many blessings. I also hope that we will all see 2013 – I, personally, won’t be holding my breath on December 21 ๐Ÿ™‚

This time last year, I wrote my first blog post about… New Year’s Resolutions! Surprising, I know. And this year, I would like to touch on the same, but with a twist.

I was giving this a lot of thought yesterday, as I was thinking about my previous year’s resolutions, and why I hadn’t accomplished some of them to my satisfaction. The main one that came to mind, as I’m sure it does for many others, is weight loss. I would love to get back to my wedding day weight, but I just can’t quite seem to get there. I’ll fluctuate throughout the year, have a few great weeks, then fall off the proverbial wagon (Oh cheese, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Blue, brie, boursin…). However, I can’t quite seem to keep on the down and down (as opposed to the up and up). So, what’s the issue? Am I motivated? Well, I can be. I want to feel, and look, good. But one has to eat, it’s a necessity, and moderation is key, which can be tough. Also, there’s exercise. I know I need to develop a habit of exercising regularly, just like flossing – I floss on days with a “u” in them, and either SatUrday or SUnday ๐Ÿ™‚ But it’s habits like these that are easily broken.

Which leads me to my first epiphany of the New Year – resolutions are nice, but priorities are better. If you make you goals for 2012 a priority, then you’ll be more likely to follow through. Two years ago, my husband and I decided to pay off our debts, and live debt free. A little over a year later, we had paid off our credit cards, our line of credit for our furniture, and our car – around $25,000. And why did it work? Because we made it a priority, so we worked our TAILS off to get there. So, this year, I’m making getting in shape a priority – and now that I’ve written it I have to follow through ๐Ÿ™‚

What are your New Year’s Priorities this year? Put them on paper, and make a plan. Wise words to live by: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.


If You’re Underwater, Start Kicking

Yesterday, I was listening to our local news station on the radio, and they said that consumers would be spending less this Christmas because they are not overly confident about our current economic situation, and they are instead opting to pay down debt. Great! I personally know how rewarding, and freeing, it is to be rid of debt, and I think that it’s fantastic that people are beginning to take a more serious approach. Little Jimmy might be upset that he’s not getting everything on his 40 item wish list, but reality has to set in sometime.

Then, I switched over to a news station that is broadcast from the U.S. They said that 30% of homeowners are currently underwater. (Underwater means that you owe more on the house than the house is worth, so if you sold your house and gave all that money over to the bank, you would still, technically, be indebted to them). As a homeowner, that must be an awful feeling. However, I want to offer you this piece of advice: If you’re underwater, start kicking!

Don’t give up. Your home will likely go up again as the markets recover. Don’t walk away. I’ve heard of people simply leaving their house key in the mailbox (usually when faced with foreclosure) – don’t do it! Start paying down your debt. Bring your costs down, and utilize the extra money to get those debt burdens off your back. Dave Ramsey, a popular financial consultant, suggests paying down the smallest debt first. This will give you the incentive to keep going, even when the going gets tough. He’s dubbed it the debt snowball.

Now, what in the world does this have to do with organizing? Lots.

First, if you can’t find it, you’ll buy another one. Don’t spend money on things you already own. If you have a system, you’ll be able to find things when you need them, instead of thinking that you need to buy more.

Second, you need to organize your finances. If you don’t keep track of your money, you will find yourself with more month left at the end of your money (Gail Vaz-Oxlade quote). There are plenty of great software options to help you keep track of your spending habits (we use Quicken). These programs allow you to sync with your various accounts, and keep track of them all in one place. You may come to realize that you are spending 30% of your money on food (eat out much?), 45% on your housing (including utilities), 25% on your car, and 15% on clothing. Quick math drill: add it up. 30+45+25+15=115% Too much? You betcha.

Third, being organized will help you to be more efficient. Rather than making three trips to the grocery store because you forgot this, that and the other thing, be prepared. Make a list, check it twice and shop once. Gas is too expensive to be wasting it on multiple trips to the grocery store. Also, try to streamline your errands. It will save you time, and money.

Do you find that staying organized helps you save money? How?


Keep The Change

One of my biggest pet peeves is scattered loose change. I can’t stand having loose change in various places. I suppose my feelings come from the thought that money is money, no matter how much. So, if I see change strewn all over the place, then I interpret that as the money having little meaning because it has little value – individually.

Last Christmas, I stood kettles for the Salvation Army. I would greet people as they walked by, and wish them a Merry Christmas. One kettle was in a Metro grocery store, right across from a coin counting machine. I was amazed at how much money people had collected! I honestly saw one person with over $1,000!!! In COINS!!! So, for those of you who think that a few pennies here, and a couple of quarters there don’t matter – they do! They add up!

So, please, get a piggy bank, a glass jar, anything, just keep the change in one place.ย  Place that jar (or coin collecting device) wherever it is that you typically empty your pockets, so that you’re more likely to use it. If you want something where you can look through and pick out specific coins, then opt for a bowl or shallow dish. There are many stylish options available.

There are other reasons for collecting your coins. Loose coinage (especially when it’s on the floor) is dangerous for animals and children. Also, it doesn’t earn interest in the couch. If you’ve got loose change around your home, take an hour and collect it. I’d love to know how much you find ๐Ÿ™‚

** Please note that in no way do endorse the coin counting machines. They charge you a ridiculous 11.9% on anything you sort. So, for every $100, you pay them $12. I’d rather roll it myself , thank you. Some banks do have a machine for their customers to use free of charge. Check it out!


Financial Matters

Money doesn’t have to be a tough concept, but it does take organization to get your affairs in order.

First of all, it is essential that you have a budget. Look at what you bring in every month, and what your expenses are. If the expenses are greater than what you bring in, you need to reassess what your needs and wants are.

How does this relate to organizing? Keep a record! Keep track of how much you are spending on groceries, clothing, eating out, movies, etc. It is very easy for your money to get away from you if you aren’t carefully watching it. Next, assign yourself a specific amount of money for each category, and stick to it! Also, remember to save for those rainy days.

Have you noticed that tax season is right around the corner? I’m sure you’ve been keeping a neat file of paperwork that you will require, right? Organizing strikes again! Imagine how simple it would be to get those taxes done before the deadline, and get your refund cheque before people have even submitted theirs, if you had your important paperwork organized! Make it easy on yourself, and your accountant, and create a folder as soon as you receive that first piece of paper. As you accumulate more, keep adding to that folder, and you’ll be ready to go when you compile your tax return.

Almost everyone who knows me knows that my husband and I swear by the “Dave Ramsey Plan”. Really, it is a very straightforward approach to good financial management. Don’t believe me? Check out his book “The Total Money Makeover”. It will change your life.

Liz