get-organized

Getting, and staying, organized matters because it makes your life so much easier and reduces stress.

In Your Job

Being organized is the reason why I can work three days a week at a job that was meant to be full-time. I keep everything in order so I spend a minimal amount of time just trying to refresh my memory about an issue or locating where an invoice might be (I work in finance). My best friends, besides Outlook’s calendar and tasks, is Excel and Word.

When starting my most recent job I started putting together all the notes I was taking into a Word document. This is now my main reference document for all the tasks I perform on an on-going basis. I also have a reference document in Excel that I use daily which contains vendor #s, GLs, etc. so I don’t have to be constantly looking up the information in our finance system. This cuts down on a lot of wasted time.

Even if you don’t work in finance, I think you’d find Excel and Word can help you with your job. You could use Excel to track clients and their contact information, track a project’s progress, or track time spent on tasks if that’s something you need (or want) to do. For processes and procedures, Word works well as you can organize your document into sections and have Word build an automatic table of contents which makes it easy to skip to the section you need no matter how long the document is (mine is currently 59 pages and continues to grow as I add to it frequently).

The best part is that not only does documenting what you do, and how you do it, help you be more efficient, it also keeps you consistent. This helps your coworkers in case they need to cover for you temporarily when you’re out of the office. It also helps your boss understand what you do (since they can’t possibly know everything when managing a group of people). In addition, when you decide to move on, your document can be passed along to your replacement which makes it easier to train them, whether that be you, if they are in place before you leave, or your boss/coworkers. It’s truly a win-win!

At Home

Staying organized at home allows you to spend your precious free-time with family, friends, pets, or even by yourself relaxing instead of wasting it looking for paperwork, your wallet, keys, etc. I’ve talked before about the different apps I use like Evernote, Dropbox, and Alarmed to keep myself on track.

Items in your home should have a home of their own, even your wallet and keys. There’s a bin by the door where we both put our keys when we get home. As a result, we never have to run around the house looking for our keys when we leave the house. I also keep my coupons in one spot so I can grab them on the way out. Pretty much everything in the kitchen is kept in the same spot all the time so there’s no wasted time trying to find something. Even my so-called junk drawer is organized!

Our laundry is organized in the respect that we have three laundry baskets – one for darks, one for lights, and one for dress clothes. On the darks bin I’ve clipped a laundry bag where I put booties and socks. That way they don’t get lost when they are washed and dried together. I’ve yet to misplace a sock mate doing this!

I’m sure getting your stuff organized can seem daunting to many people, but the end result is so worth it! The sense of satisfaction you feel when everything is put away neatly and easily found later is amazing. The trick is to make it easy to put stuff back where it belongs so you keep doing it.

rothIRA

I heard it mentioned somewhere on a show we were watching about someone looking into opening a Roth IRA for their (minor) child. This piqued my interest. Knowing the value of compounding interest and market performance over the long term could be huge, I decided to start doing a little research and thought I would share what I’ve found.

Keep in mind, as we’ve mentioned here on our about page, we’re not finance experts by any means; we’ve had no formal training or any certifications. Our writings are all based off of personal experiences. And don’t listen to me! Go do some research yourself. Google is a wonderful tool. Google-ize it! **I really should trademark that phrase**.

Like the Stones said, “time is on my side”!

Benefits
First, let us cover the benefits of opening a Roth IRA for your child and you!

Let’s assume a single $1,000 contribution is made when your child is 10 and nothing more is invested. Assuming a 5% rate of return, your child would have nearly $11,500 after 50 years. Yes, that many years! Remember, this is for retirement. Add a $50/month contribution starting after that initial $1,000 and your kid could have over $130k after 50 years. Talk about a little going a long way!

There’s a nice side benefit if you include your child on what you’re doing as well – you’re teaching them the importance of investing and saving for retirement. And being able to hand this off to them as they get older and can take over contributions for their future? Priceless!

And remember – With a Roth IRA, contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty.

Rules
Of course there are rules. The maximum limit applies to the child just as it does to an adult: $5,500 for 2014. Your child can contribute all income up to the $5,500 annual limit. For example, if your child earns $2,000, they can contribute just up to the $2,000. Likewise, if they earn $12,000, they are limited to the annual amount of $5,500.

Of course, there’s a stipulation and it’s this – the money put in the account has to qualify as income. It’s easier when one has a W2. However, income from mowing lawns or babysitting also qualifies. If there’s no W2, do yourself a favor and document it really well. How much was paid, who for (if you’re adding to more than one child’s Roth IRA), how long, what type of work, etc. And it should be realistic; you wouldn’t pay your kid $200 to mow the lawn for an hour.

The custodial account will have to be opened by you since they are a minor. Not a big deal, just be aware you’ll need to provide info on yourself as well.

What’s next?
In my opinion, it’s a great opportunity to get your child on the road to having a financially secure retirement. We all have examples of could haves and should haves. This is a good opportunity if you have children too young to start contributing on their own. And if you have young adult children now is a good time to encourage them to start putting money aside for retirement. Roth IRAs are quick to set up online with any of the major financial institutions. Many can be started with as little as $100. Putting a little away each month will add up because time is on their side!

Work Perks

If your company is like many others, including mine, they offer a host of benefits aside from the typical medical, dental, and vision. I didn’t realize how many of them we have taken advantage of over the years until I was perusing the list.

Does your place of employment offer anything good? Have you checked? It’s a great way to save some $$$.

For example, here are the ones we’ve taken advantage of, which in some cases have literally saved us thousands of dollars.

Biometric Screening – Each year by taking a survey, as well as a blood test, we receive a credit of $150 for Nicole and another $150 for myself. They reduced this recently and it’s now down to $100 each but it couldn’t be easier and doesn’t take much time at all.

Mortgage Closing Costs – This was a big one; our closing costs when we refinanced were just a few hundred dollars.

New Vehicle Purchase Program Discount – We used this to purchase our last vehicle and saved about $2,500 off the sticker price.

Bike Helmets – My wellness program reimbursed us for new bike helmets we purchased. Bam! Another $50 saved.

Wireless Services – We get a 15% discount each month on our AT&T bill thanks to this one. We’ve had this one going for years.

It all adds up!

There are a host of others we haven’t taken advantage of too, including electronic purchases, theme park discounts, travel discounts, and financial services. With my wellness program we’d also be reimbursed a portion of our yearly health club fees. That would be handy if we used a health club, but many people do, so it’s worth checking into!

It pays to take a look to see what offerings are available, so why not take advantage?

We recently took a day trip to an amusement park in Indiana where my brother decided he wanted to purchase a souvenir. As we browsed the gift shop, I couldn’t help but notice how tacky everything seemed and I wondered whether the souvenirs in this particular shop, which I’ve visited nearly annually since I was a small child, had always contained the same cheap junk and I only recently began to see it for what it truly was, or if they just didn’t care anymore.

When I got home I was still thinking about souvenirs in general. I think it’s pretty normal for people to want a memento from a place they’ve visited, but ever since I’ve gotten into digital photography (you can visit my photo site here if you’re so inclined), I feel like my photos are my souvenirs for the most part. My husband and I did start a tradition of collecting magnets from places we’ve visited. They cover our refrigerator and are a daily reminder of all the places we’ve been together. I like this because a) they’re inexpensive and b) they take up no additional space. In fact, the only other times I can even think that we’ve purchased souvenirs other than a magnet was when we got married in Florida and purchased two Mickey Mouse souvenirs and when we went to New York we purchased a commemorative coin at the Statue of Liberty for Joe’s son.

My point is, you don’t have to break the bank collecting souvenirs that will likely just clutter up your home.

Subscribe

Recently I saw a deal for a reduced annual subscription to one of my favorite magazines, ShopSmart, which is issued by Consumer Reports. I always find some great tips in that magazine and truly enjoy reading it. I was tempted to purchase the subscription when I stopped myself – I can read this magazine for free at the library; I don’t need to spend $15 on a subscription to something that will be quickly thrown into the recycle bin when I’m finished. It’s just going to create more clutter and waste not to mention cost me money.

I think this is how people get themselves in trouble financially as little purchases over time do add up, particularly subscriptions which tend to stick around far past their usefulness because it’s so easy to allow the company to keep deducting that amount from your account. This is why as tempting as it is I’ve been able to stop myself from buying a premium subscription to the streaming music services I like to listen to at work – Digitally Imported and Pandora. Sure, the semi-frequent commercial interruptions can get a little annoying, but is it really so bad I need to add an unnecessary expense to my budget? I don’t think so.

I think it’s worth it to evaluate what you’re spending your money on monthly that isn’t a necessity. This is particularly true if you’re struggling to make ends meet, but even if you’re comfortable. There’s no use in throwing money away that could be better saved.