While organization may not be at the top of your mind when it comes to personal finances, a lack of it could have a direct impact on your wallet.
For many people, being disorganized can lead to real-life costs, including missed opportunities and deadlines and wasted time. Here are some examples of how being disorganized can cost you money:
1. Missed payments
: A bill or credit card payment can easily be put aside and forgotten until the due date passes. Not only will this cost you late charges, it can also trigger universal default on your credit cards that instantly raises their interest rates to the most expensive levels.
2. Overdrawing accounts
: If you don't know how much money is in your checking or savings account because you haven't balanced either recently, you increase the chances of accidentally overdrawing one of the accounts and having to pay overdraft fees.
3. Frequent ATM stops
: Knowing the amount of money that you will need during the week or on a particular day will help ensure that you have enough on you when you go about your daily activities. If you don't, you are much more likely to have to stop at an ATM that is not part of your bank's network -- which will mean paying fees for taking out your own money.
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4. Missed opportunities
: Knowing what you are going to need in the future gives you time to research and find the best price on the item. If you are forced to purchase something at the last minute, chances are you will pay a lot more for it. If you plan ahead knowing that you need a new barbeque for the summer, you can look for a good deal and likely get it on sale. But if you end up realizing you need a barbeque a few days before a party, you are going to have to pay whatever the current price is at your local retailer.
5. Purchasing unneeded items
: You can often have items in your house, but not know exactly where they are located. Or you may have completely forgotten that you had already purchased something, since your closet or a cabinet is cluttered. Not knowing where items are located can result in you thinking you need something you already have -- and wasting money.
6. Return trips to the store
: If you go shopping without a list and try to remember what you need as you walk down the store aisles, there's a good chance that you will accidentally forget something. If the item happens to be important, you are going to have to make another trip to the store -- wasting both the cost of gas and your time.
: There are a lot of opportunities to save money with rebate offers, but you have to actually follow through with the entire process. That means having your receipt, the rebate form, the proof of purchase seal and anything else you are required to submit sent in by a certain date. It's not difficult to do, but it does take a bit of organization. This can mean several hundred dollars saved off your purchase of computers and other electronics if you are organized enough to follow through.
8. Emergency purchases
: Much like having to go and purchase a forgotten item, an emergency purchase is when you have to purchase something that you thought you had but don't -- or can't find. This can be at an odd hour when only over-priced convenience stores are open, meaning that you'll need to pay even more for being unorganized.
9. Coupons/credits/gift cards
: Using coupons, credits and gift cards can save you a lot of money, but only if you have them when you need them and use them before they expire. Throwing them into your desk to use later lets you run the risk that they will no longer be valid when you actually find them again. That's like throwing money away.
10. Convenience spending
: When you're not organized, your convenience spending tends to increase. It means a stop by Starbucks on the way to work and a lunch at a local restaurant since you didn't have enough time in the morning to make your own coffee and pack your own lunch.
11. Reduced useful life of items
: Many items require regular maintenance in order for them to last the number of years they were made to last. Failure to be organized and provide this maintenance will reduce their useful life or make them run less efficiently, costing you more. Failing to change filters on your car and your air conditioner, failing to empty the clothes dryer filter and failing to clean your garden tools before putting them away for the season are a few examples of how poor maintenance can reduce the life and efficiency of things.
12. Wasted food
: When you are disorganized, food can sit on shelves or in the refrigerator past its expiration date and spoil. You might also throw out food when you make too much, rather than saving leftovers for the next day's lunch. Food that ends up being thrown out is money wasted.
13. Tax deductions
: There are quite a few tax deductions that you may qualify for but can't take unless you kept the proper records. Did you keep track of the miles you drove in relation to charitable work your performed? Did you keep a list of all the items you donated? These things and more may be deductible if you keep the proper records. With the Internal Revenue Service now requiring proof of donations valued at under $250 to charities beginning this year, this becomes even more critical.
: Your time has value. All those little things being disorganized force you to do add up over the course of a day. How long did it take for you to find your keys? How about your glasses? While it may have been only a few minutes here and there, it adds up to a lot of time lost over the course of a day, a week and a month.
15. Lost productivity
: If you have ever wondered why some people seem to be able to do an amazing amount of work compared to the average person, chances are the reason is that they are highly organized. It's amazing how much productivity gets wasted each day simply due to lack of organization. When you are able to increase your productivity, this can lead to better opportunities at work or give you time to seek out other interests.
This doesn't even take into account the relief from stress that comes with knowing where things are and not having to search high and low for everything you need each day. Taking the time to get yourself better organized will not only help your finances, but also give you the opportunity to do a lot more each day.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.