Managing money well requires effective organization habits. Learning how to sift through the high volume of information that comes your way so that important things are dealt with in a timely manner is a key to effectively administering a household or business.
Scripture warns of the consequences of not making the effort to manage our resources: “I passed by the field of the sluggard, by the vineyard of one with no sense; It was all overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall broken down. And as I gazed at it, I reflected; I saw and learned the lesson: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest — then will poverty come upon you like a robber, and want like a brigand” (Prv 24:30-34).
Finding a method
How can you tell if you are well-organized? Here are a few questions to ask:
◗ Are you able to find what you need when you need it — for example: bills and your checkbook; important family records such as birth certificates, Social Security numbers and passports; tax records; auto and appliance maintenance and warranty information; contact information — to name just a few?
◗ Do you meet deadlines or incur late fees, penalties and interest charges?
◗ Do you find yourself having to redo things, such as repaying a bill that you already wrote a check for but forgot to mail because it got lost in the shuffle?
It’s important that we recognize our strengths and weaknesses related to effective organization. For some, being neat and tidy is part of who they are. For others, it doesn’t come as naturally. Many years ago, I remember watching an episode of “The Bob Newhart Show,” where on one of his days off, he spent part of his day organizing the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator alphabetically — probably not the best use of his time! What we should strive for is balance.
The right steps
Here are a few tips that will help you become an effective organizer.
One of the first steps to take is to make sure you have a permanent physical location in your home that facilitates effective home administration. If possible, creating office space that is out of the hustle and bustle of other family activities is preferable. An effective space will include the following: table; supply and file drawers; computer/tablet; telephone and hands-free headset; container for writing utensils; stamps; large wastebasket; shredder; scissors, tape, paper clips, stationery, envelopes, Post-its and file folders. You’ll also want key contact information to be available, probably via your contact list on your computer/smart phone.
Once you have your physical space set up, develop a system for handling the information that comes your way, including physical mail and email. A system that has worked well for me over the years is to process mail daily (physical and email). That means opening all mail and taking one of four actions: throw away/archive (shredding if contains sensitive information), distributing/forwarding to others for action as appropriate, act on immediately if urgent, or place in my “open file,” which is where items are filed that I follow-up on during the weekly time reserved for bill pay and household administration.
Setting up a recurring weekly schedule with adequate time reserved to pay bills, update budget information, process paperwork and plan out your time is a great way to stay on top of the administrative front at home. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries (www.VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Small Group Study” (OSV, $19.95).