Some time ago I joined a refugee humanitarian programme where in the introduction briefing, the speaker asked us one question that really made me pause and think, “If you have to flee your home/country and you could only bring 3 items, what would you bring”? Ahh it’s not that I didn’t know what should I bring but I was paralyzed by the thought that I actually didn’t know where I put those important stuff/documents. You know like my purse and IC could be in my handbag but my passport could be in one of the drawers and my other important documents could be in… God knows where.
After that enlightening talk, you would think that I would start clearing, cleaning and decluttering my stuff. Nope, not at all but that thought has been in the back of my mind since then whispering me to take action, but I sadly didn’t.
Then I got into a minor car accident where I had to contact my insurance provider. Guess what? Yup, I didn’t know even know who’s my insurance provider and it took me a long 15 minutes to find where’s the policy document. Similarly, I actually didn’t know where exactly I keep my bank statements, salary slips and insurance policies. They are everywhere.
Uh-oh, time to stop this whole mess. This could be a lot worse. So last weekend I dedicated my Sunday to go through this whole process of decluttering, managing and organizing my financial life.
These are the 10 simple things that I did to declutter my finances.
1. REMOVE MARKETING EMAILS AND ACCOUNTS
I started with the easiest one – going through my emails and social media accounts. If you’re into online shopping and web surfing, I’m sure you’ve also got yourself subscribed to a bunch of marketing and promotional emails. So am I.
Earlier this year, I’ve unsubscribed to a bunch of them as my way to remove temptations for my no-buy year but somehow throughout this year, I’ve accumulated a few mailing subscriptions again. Now, time to unsubscribe.
This could take some time if you never did this but trust me, it feels good to see our inbox with no unread unnecessary notification.
You can also do the same with online shops or marketing or influencers accounts that you follow in social media. If they don’t serve you any purpose, it’s alright to unfollow. Less advertisement, marketing and temptation can do so much good for our financial life.
2. CUT OUT UNNECESSARY SUBSCRIPTIONS
Currently, I’m just subscribed to Netflix, my blog hosting, trading platform and a postpaid plan. Netflix keeps me sane, the postpaid plan keeps me connected, the blog hosting keeps me blogging, the trading platform keeps me… trading. So I’ll keep these subscriptions for now though I honestly hope the last two subscriptions will be worth it one day.
If you have any subscription that you don’t actually use as much this year, let them go. Unsubscribe.
3. SET UP AUTOMATIC BILL PAY
Setting up automatic bill pay or auto-debit or auto-billing for the first time can be quite a hassle but the extra 1 hour that it takes is really worth it in the long run. You don’t have to do it manually every month anymore, it will automatically deduct the amount from your account.
I’ve actually done this for my phone bill, Celcom to be exact, a few months back when they offered RM50 off the next bill if we opt for auto-billing (the promotion has now ended). Hooray because I got RM50 off, but more hooray because I no longer need to waste my mental energy to remember making payment every month.
Now I’ve automated my other bills as well. I even helped my parents to do the same for their billings.
Auto-billing is the way to go to reserve our mental energy over checking every bill that we need to pay each month. One cautionary advice though – please check your bank statements regularly to ensure there is no extra fees or payment error.
4. AUTOMATE SAVINGS
I don’t automate my savings in the way I automate my bills payment. I do save every month now but I just can’t bring myself to automate this whole process. Why? Because I just love doing it manually! I feel like a responsible adult who really lives up to the whole pay-yourself-first notion. I love the feeling of making the transfer – not to pay bills, not to pay anyone, not to pay debt – but to pay myself. Ahh I’ll continue doing it manually. But yes, budgeting wise – savings should be automated every month.
Nevertheless, I do automate my sinking fund savings. I’ve set up 3 sinking funds using Maybank feature for big expenses coming up next year, i.e. for Raya, for road tax and trading platform renewals. So every month, my account will automatically transfer a certain amount that I’ve fixed into these 3 sinking funds, cannot be touched. When the time comes, it will automatically transfer the sum back into my account.
I’ve used this feature for road tax every year, it really saves me from the headache of having to fork up a large sum of money for any predetermined expenses because now the money is ready when I need them.
5. ORGANIZE BANK ACCOUNTS AND STATEMENTS
There are few things that you can do for this:
- Gather and organize all physical statements or cheque books or any letter from the bank in one file.
- Download (if necessary) and put all e-statements to one folder instead of letting them be in the Downloads folder with all of the things that you download off the web.
- Review the statements to see if there was any suspicious record.
- If you have multiple bank accounts, consider whether you really need them all. Close bank accounts that you no longer use (I know this can be a hassle) or repurpose the bank accounts, e.g. one account for savings purpose, another as sinking fund etc.
- If you think you need more accounts or if you have to open any specific account, e.g. Tabung Haji for Muslim or a CDS account for stocks trading, now is the time to do it.
I did the first two in the list. I quickly reviewed my bank statements as well (I do go through them every month because I now religiously track my income and expenses) and found no weird record. Yay to getting on top of my bank accounts.
6. ORGANIZE MY FINANCIAL RECORD
This is the thing that has cluttered not only my physical space but my mental space. Not knowing where I put my own important documents and financial record really bothered me. How if I need them during an emergency? Well, such occasion has arisen and I tell you it’s not fun nervously looking around for them.
Now I have them in proper files specifically for tax records, bank records, payslips, insurance policies, receipts etc. All gathered in one place. Ah such a relief after such a long time carrying the mental baggage. I also took the chance to keep the contact details of my insurance provider and studied the process to contact and claim for my insurance should the need arises (hopefully not!).
So guys if there is just one thing that you want to do from this decluterring list, do this one. Please. It will clear your space and mind, keep you organized and help you to access them easily in the future.
7. DIGITALIZE PAPER RECORDS
We’re in the digital world so now time to bring this organization process to another level. I saved all my physical records and papers I’ve gathered, digitally. It’s more convenient this way because should you lose the physical papers, you can have an online backup of the records.
First, scan all the papers. If you have a scanner, just scan them all. I don’t have one but thank God for technology. I used this phone app called CamScanner where I just took photos of the documents one by one and the apps automatically turned them into a scanned version. It’s legit so cool because I can’t even tell the difference that it’s not actually scanned using a proper scanner.
Next, I emailed the scanned documents to myself. The ideal way would be to save them in a proper storage site like Google Drive or Dropbox but as I almost maxed out my free storage, I figured emailing them to myself would do. And now I can retrieve them from anywhere.
8. PREPARE FOR TAXES
I’ve paid for annual income tax twice now and both times I didn’t have favourable experience. The first year was because I didn’t save any record or receipt for my deductible expenses. The second year because I kept thinking about it for months only to do it so very last minute that I had to queue up at the LHDN office for so long on the deadline day (with the others who’re like me) when I had problem with the online system.
I don’t want that to happen for the third year. And I’m so happy that throughout this year, I’ve scanned (with CamScanner) the deductible bills and receipts, and recorded my expenses. So last weekend, I just listed out all deductible expenses and now I’m ready to use them when the time comes. Say no more to last-minute income tax filing!
9. CREATE A SPENDING PLAN
Creating a spending plan may not look like a decluttering process but it actually is. I did this by reviewing my spending throughout this year to determine which spending was unnecessary. I don’t want to brag but my no-buy year really sped up this process – not much of spendings to go through.
For the new year, I don’t plan to continue this no-buy year but I make it a point to do the following things, briefly:
- To save at least 20% of my salary every month;
- To constantly transfer a certain amount of money every month to the 3 sinking funds for my big expenses;
- To stick to my current fixed bills (without adding any more commitment except perhaps for Youtube Premium);
- The balance will go to my daily expenses, e.g. grocery, food and other necessary expenses
The key point for this decluttering process is to actually sort out your spendings and remove any unnecessary expenses for the new year.
10. DECLUTTER PHYSICAL STUFF
I really tried to do this but I chickened out. I’m still not in the minimalist mindset to let go of my stuff. I didn’t buy many things for a year and I don’t intend to accumulate more stuff but at the same time, I just can’t let go of the things that I currently have.
If you’re on another awesome level, do consider decluttering your physical stuff. From a financial standpoint, you can sell stuff to get more money. Besides that, there are so many benefits to decluttering physical stuff.
I’ll come back to this one day, hopefully.
TIME TO DECLUTTER YOUR FINANCES
Going through this decluttering process can seem like a hassle but it’s all worth it! Let’s put aside just a few hours of your day before this year ends and organizing and managing your finances to the core. It took me just one morning to do all this (except for no. 10) but the mental effects that it has on me, I believe, will last long.
Now I know where I stand financially which gives me clarity and space to set up new financial goals for the future, and at the same time, I don’t have to worry about losing any of my financial records because they’re all there.
Now is the time for a smooth financial year ahead! Let’s continue figuringgitout.