If you have money and time to spare, please skip this article. Saving money is fashionable again. After you cut out your coffee-house latte, consolidate trips to save gas, and switch your cellular phone plan, what’s left? How about getting organized as a way to fatten your wallet? Can a few changes in your household habits really make a difference?
You probably sense that being organized is better than being disorganized, but there are real, quantifiable payoffs. There are things anyone can do on their own. However, even if you have to get some extra help from a professional organizer to change your habits, the financial benefits can often outweigh the costs. The technical term for this is return on investment, but you can call it more money in your pocket.
Take the woman who organized her work wardrobe recently. She saves money because her clothes are now kept inside the closet, not outside where the dog hair is, and she sends out her dry cleaning less often. At an estimated $5 per garment, she could easily save $20-$100 per month just in dry cleaning bills. She also saves money on buying fewer of the same item over and over because she can’t find the one she needs. Many people buy a replacement garment four or more times a year because that favorite black sweater was lost or forgotten at the back of the closet (at $40 to $100 each). She will earn a hefty tax deduction for ten bags of clothes she donated to charity. Use a value guide to assign value to your donated items, and you could take a tax deduction of between $90 and $450 for just thirty donated blouses. Tally all of your donations up, properly document them for tax season (which takes about three minutes), and you can easily end up with cash back from your taxes of $25 to $126 for the above example. Less easy to calculate, but perhaps more valuable, is the time she saves each morning as she doesn’t struggle with her wardrobe. If she can make $50 an hour at her business, an extra 15 minutes per day that she saves from getting dressed and redressed adds up to $275 per month that she could have been earning instead. Maybe this isn’t real money, but maybe she truly can get more done with a couple of hours each month, or maybe she can just arrive at work less hassled. Just by reorganizing her closet, this gal could be saving a conservative estimate of $325-$1,850 per year, and she could be earning as much as an additional $3,300 in her found time.
OK, you’re convinced. How can you turn your disorganization in to real cash? A single mom earned over $300 at a garage sale this summer, which not only left her with reduced clutter and cash in pocket, but she also didn’t move unwanted items when she moved to another house just six months later. She moved herself, so all she paid for was her time, gas, and moving supplies. Have you priced moving boxes lately? Just by reducing the amount of boxes and packing tape she would have had to buy, she saved herself at least $40. Those who pay for a professional mover could save thousands, since moving charges are based on pounds or number of boxes moved. The less clutter and unwanted items you pack and move, the less expensive any move will be.
Are you one of the many people who file their federal taxes using an extension? About 5.5 million extension requests were filed compared to 115 million tax filings in 2009. That is just shy of 5%. There are often fees and missed opportunities with late or extended filings. While the extension Form 4868 can be filed for free directly with the IRS, tax software and CPA fees for the same filing start at $20 and go up. CPAs who file extensions often charge disorganized clients fees just to organize their records. Did you know that actual tax charges must be paid by April 15, even with an extension request, or penalties of 5% per month and more start to accrue. The minimum penalty is $100, but it can turn out to be much more. Even worse, if the IRS actually owes you a refund, they are holding your money until you file your refund request up to six months after the filing deadline, but they won’t pay you interest!
Who doesn’t love a massage? It sounds heavenly just now. Sadly, there are more gift cards and gift certificates lost in junk drawers and paper piles than you can imagine. Just last month a busy professional stumbled upon an old unused bank-issued gift card for $100. The card had expired and the issuing bank had been purchased by another bank before the card owner could track down the value. Several phone calls later, the new bank has offered to look into replacing the card, after a six to eight week period. There are still no guarantees that part or all of the money will show up, but there’s hope.
More on the cost of disorganized paper. Harris Interactive did a survey that found 23% of adults sometimes pay their bills late because they can’t find them. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll notice that banks and credit companies are increasing and assessing more fees since the mortgage meltdown and resulting legislation over recent years. While these fees used to be nominal and annoying, an overdraft fee can now be $40 or more. Just think, you might bounce a couple of checks before you realize you are overdrawn, and your bank can easily eat up $120 or more of money you don’t have before you find out about it. Yowzer! You’re really going to need a massage after getting that bank statement.
You’ve heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Some people get so disorganized that not only does prevention get ignored, so does the cure. Home improvement projects, for instance, should happen before small fixes cause big repair bills. One woman was afraid to have a roofer come in to fix a leak in her bedroom ceiling because of the clutter in her bedroom. After organizing the clothes and clutter in her bedroom, she got the leak fixed. Had she let it go any longer, she would have been faced with a much larger repair bill. A typical handyman can handle a small repair for about $50. A roofing repair with interior drywall, paint, and trim replacement from water damage can be well in to the thousands. There are many, many ten thousand dollar bathroom renovations that could have been prevented with a $5 tube of caulk or a $100 plumber’s visit.
Successfully organizing one part of your life can lead to improvements in another. A busy professional reorganized her kitchen cabinets, and she now has space to put away groceries so she can actually see what she has. She threw out at least $300 in packaged food that expired in 2005. She also tackled her unruly plastic storage, where she had not one, but two sets of tubs specifically for carrying a healthy lunch in to work (never used). Lunch out usually costs between $5 and $10 these days, but you can buy $10 of sandwich fixings, fruit and yogurt to supply you with lunch for the entire week. Savings: $160 per month. She has a better chance now of eating dinner at home, saving money from not purchasing expensive and unhealthy drive-thru meals; dinners out are another $160-$320 per month in potential savings. Finally, by reformatting her pantry, she has a better chance of reformatting her fitness goals, by eating more fresh food and less fatty and preservative-laden food. And that, as they say, is priceless.
If you saw $100 laying on the street, would you stop to pick it up? These real-life stories offer easy ways to quickly pick up real money. Hopefully you’ll find inspiration and tangible value in tackling just one organizing project that you’ve been thinking about. Take part of those savings and splurge on a fun organizing tool, or better yet, a clutter-free massage.
*Get Organized recognizes that Darla DeMorrow is an award winning service provider. Darla DeMorrow is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Color With No Regrets consultant, decorator, author, speaker, and owner of HeartWork Organizing. She helps her clients to reclaim control and add beauty in their lives, their homes, and their workplaces. Request your free 31 Simple Tips for Organizing Space, Time and Paper & Information at www.HeartWorkOrg.com. Her new book, The Pregnant Entrepreneur, will be available in April 2011.
© 2011 HeartWork Organizing