All the financial advice in the world won't help you if you can't find it when you need it. Which is why the secret to saving money is at your fingertips.
Where do you keep your financial information? In a pile in a corner of the kitchen? Stacked up under your desk? Shoved in a drawer in your bedroom? At a time when chaos reigns on the world financial scene, it's time to take back the reins on a small scale. Being disorganised is not only interfering with your feng shui, it's costing you money.
"There is a lot of valuable time and emotional energy wasted worrying when you know you're disorganised," says Peter Thornhill, principal of Motivated Money. "You think of the same thing over and over and never get to where you want to go."
You know you've done it "Must pay that credit card bill, must pay that credit card bill …where is that credit card bill?" and it affects everything from the monthly bills to deciding what you're doing with your superannuation.
"A lot comes down to personality," says Thornhill. "If you make no decision, you've made no mistake. It's easier to do nothing than to make a decision and then potentially regret what you've done."
So you pick up your statements or that letter from your bank, look at it and then put it down somewhere else. It's also easier to make a decision when you have all the information you need to hand.
Faced with a paper blizzard, however, most of us choose to put our heads down and decide we'll think about it "tomorrow".
Tomorrow is today
Unless you're Lissanne Oliver, director of Sorted! Organising & Decluttering, who endorses the idea of starting today. "Being organised saves you money," she says. "Take the time, pay attention and you'll not only meet any deadlines for payments but you won't miss any opportunities."
So where do you start? By keeping your paperwork in one place. "It can be a shoebox," says Oliver. "You don't need a filing cabinet, an expanding file, or colour-coded manila envelopes just get it all in one place."
Her tip is to worry less about the way it's stored, and more about the categories in which you store it. "The categories you choose depend on what you need to keep," she says. "Keep your banking details together, utilities together, telcos together. Don't make so many categories that you can't be bothered doing the filing."
Which brings us to the next point: do the filing as you go. "Open your mail and read it then and there," says Oliver. "So much of our mail is finance-related and you need to be across the information. Don't think you'll do it later."
If you do it on a regular basis, it's less unpleasant. Think cleaning the bathroom or weeding the garden do it once a week and it's manageable. Leave it any longer and the situation gets messy.
Oliver also recommends being ruthless about what you keep. "People are afraid to throw finance stuff out, even if they'll never need it again," she says. "You only need to keep your tax documentation for five years from the time it's filed if you've got stuff dating back to 1999, dump it."
Unless you're keeping utilities accounts for tax purposes, Oliver suggests keeping them for 12 months maximum. Credit card statements have fulfilled their purpose once you've checked the transactions and paid the bill. Although Thornhill suggests statements can be useful as proof of purchase down the track, while Oliver only keeps hers long-term if she's travelled and wants to remember the name of a shop.
Oliver sees the time spent sorting your financial paperwork as an investment. "There's a link between a lack of organisation and lack of time-management," she says. "Make the time to keep an eye on your money it won't just happen."
Make use of the systems in place to help you. Set up online payments and direct debits and keep a list in your diary of what's due to be paid when. "Use your diary to keep track of when bills are due so you won't miss a payment," says Oliver.
Her final tip for financial clarity: "Don't hang on to every receipt! You don't need the receipt for two apples at the fruit shop don't even take it."
She recommends cleaning out your wallet every two days once a week at the very least and filing the receipts you do need.
If nothing else, you'll at least then be able to find the cash you do have!