Simplifying for Fall: Paper Clutter and Budgets {Day 5}

Simplify for Fall Challenge with @lifeyourway #simplifyingforfall http://bit.ly/O94Ww4

Today’s Day 5 of the Simplify for Fall Challenge, and we’re tackling paper clutter and budgets!

We have a busy day today, and I won’t be home. Thankfully, I’m ahead on today’s challenge (woohoo, for once this week!), but I’m still sharing tips and further reading to help you work through these areas:

File Systems

Honestly, we don’t deal with a lot of paper clutter (unless you count the craft variety!). We get online versions of most of our bills and don’t need to keep too many receipts (although I’m still not very good at scanning the ones we do need to keep, so I have a file of those), so one little file cabinet holds all of my files, and it’s not too difficult to stay on top of filing.

If paper clutter is your nemesis, it’s more important to get a system in place today for any new paper that comes in than it is to catch up on the stacks of paper you already have. If you wait to get started until you have time to get it all neat and organized, you’ll continue to fall farther and farther behind. But if you start with paper that comes into your house, you’ll develop a system that works, and chances are the stack of paper won’t seem quite so intimidating either.

Further reading:

Children’s Artwork

Although our file system isn’t a struggle, one area I have struggled with is organizing the girls’ finished artwork!

Naked Binders

I decided to take my own advice and create art binders for each of them. We bought a few more Naked Binders, a different color for each of them, and I slipped their best work into page protectors so we can flip through them any time we want. I love that this system not only organizes the artwork, but also displays and protects it!

Further reading:

Budget

2012 is the first year that I can say we’re actually doing well at sticking to a written budget, keeping good records, etc…and it feels good!

We use a modified envelope system for our monthly purchases. Instead of dividing our monthly cash by category, we divide it by week, which makes it easier for us to make spending decisions on a weekly basis. It’s working well for us!

We also keep a written budget in an Excel spreadsheet (mine’s a little too complicated and personalized to share, but Brad shared his here), and I do my business bookkeeping in Quickbooks.

The most important part of budgeting is to set an appointment with yourself every month to review the budget — and then keep it! — and check in weekly. You’ll save money and be better prepared come tax time, especially if you record medical expenses, charitable giving, etc. as you go!

If you’re not sure where to start, take some time to make a list of all of your monthly income sources and all of your expenses. Then, make a list of upcoming expenses that you need to plan for — medical care, holidays and birthdays, school expenses, etc.

From there, create a budget that shows where all of your money will go. Figure out how much is available to go into your savings account each month and set up that transfer first. Give yourself a set grocery budget and an “allowance” of fun money. The benefits of knowing where your money is going — and the additional control that gives you — is well worth the time it takes to walk through this exercise. I promise!

Updates

I won’t be posting updates today because we’re off to our homeschool group orientation and then to get our littlest’s stitches removed. But if you’re sharing pictures on Pinterest or Instagram, be sure to tag your updates with #simplifyingforfall so we can all see them. Or if you’re blogging your progress, leave the link to your post in the comments!

What’s your biggest paper clutter challenge?

Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.