Almost everyone has a picture in their head of how their lives should run. It typically goes something like this: Your living space is orderly and tidy, with carefully chosen containers and efficient ways to house your belongings. Last-minute guests? No biggie. Your place always looks ready to entertain friends and family. Your finances are in good order and you live within your means, making wise choices about how you spend your hard-earned money. You monitor your bills and make sure every charge is legitimate and every payment is on time. You are on top of your schedule and never need to rush out the door. And - hey look! - there are your keys/wallet/purse/phone in a dedicated space where they are always waiting for you to you grab on your way out.
OK, so this is just a fantasy, right? What’s the matter with a little clutter and disorganization? What’s the big deal about sometimes forgetting or losing stuff? Well, it’s not really a big problem when you just experience the snippets of day to day difficulty you encounter. Take care of it and forget about it, right? Move on, as they say. But if you take a step back and use a wide-angle lens on these daily annoyances, you might discover there’s actually a big cost to not having good systems for running your life. And there’s not just an emotional cost of those accumulated frustrations - there’s a cost of the real dollars and cents variety that may surprise you if you look back on the last year.
Let’s look at a few examples of what expenses you could incur over the course of a year:
Fees and penalties
In addition to this itemized list above, think of adding up all the time you’ve spent in the last year searching for lost items, arranging for replacements of ATM cards, or other life essentials that were misplaced or forgotten. Was it an hour? Or was it several hours - or even days as you add up all the time spent on hold with customer support or rooting around for that missing document or those dress shoes?
Then there are the other, longer-term consequences to consider. If a pattern of late payments for your bills emerges, your credit rating can suffer. Maybe that prevents you from getting a loan for that business you wanted to start or results in a higher interest rate on that new mortgage. You’ll be paying more for your house than expected, costing you potentially thousands over the lifetime of that loan. In your professional life, you may miss out on promotions if you can’t get reports in on time because you’re procrastinating or perfecting them. Or maybe chronic late arrivals to work put you at risk for termination. Perhaps you can’t follow through on submitting an application for a new job you’d like better. All of these scenarios involve potentially significant financial losses.
If by now you’re convinced that you need to get some systems in place to help your life run less expensively, here are a few things you can do:
It isn’t easy to change old habits, even when you know they’re costing you time and money. Your best bet is to change just one thing at a time. Take a look at the suggestions above and start with the one that you think will be easiest to do. Be patient with yourself and stick with this new way of doing things until it becomes automatic. Now, you’ll have the confidence to tackle a solution that seems a little harder to implement. With each gradual change you make, you’re establishing new, effective habits that will save you money and time in the long run. Isn’t it time for a change?
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash