Simplify Your Life – Part 1 – Finances

by Sara on October 6, 2012

simplify your lifeMultiple Sclerosis has certainly complicated my life in many ways. The varieties of stress that come along with modern life are compounded exponentially with this disease. I have new doctors now, excess weight, less energy, disability, handicap parking tags, canes, fans to cool me down, bottles upon bottles of medications, a CPAP machine, bills and statements from hospitals, and, last but not least, worries. A lot of worries. At times I have felt supremely overwhelmed with stuff, with concerns, with financial problems, with health problems, with responsibilities (dinner, dishes, laundry, shopping, cleaning, preparing for work). How do you simplify your life?

It’s hard to say exactly where my own journey began. The process was arduous at times. I believe it may have kicked in when my husband discovered Mint. While I had my own tallies and due dates in my mind, Mint allowed us to see them summarized neatly. It allowed us to formulate a plan. At the time, my health was poor and one of our cats was dying. Our finances were in terrible shape. We had to do something.

The first thing we did was save an emergency fund and slash our spending (hello Ramen). Soon we had switched to joint rewards credit cards and cancelled our low limit, high interest cards (we now get 6% cash back on groceries, 3% on gas and department stores, 1% – 5% on everything else) and synchronized all of our bill dates to the 1st of every month. Then we found a high yield online savings account and shifted our emergency fund there to earn more interest for us. Then we refinanced our home to a lower rate and a shorter loan duration (30 year mortgages are the devil) using the bank we also used for checking – this gave us an elite checking account with various bonuses including interest earned on money in the account and a free safe deposit box. We cut out excess services such as cable. We finally began investing in 401Ks and IRAs. And soon the feeling that we didn’t have enough money to support our lifestyle changed to worrying about not having enough money to meet our lofty savings goals.

One thing helped us along the way. While it was a slow and steady process and could be disappointing, the journey was occasionally infused by cash from selling some of our collectible stuff that we were no longer attached to on ebay and craigslist. We found more and more to sell. As our things left the house in boxes, I began to see the benefits of simplifying your life. Opportunities for simplification were really everywhere. Cooking meals became easier when we started preparing simpler meals such as grilled chicken with baby spinach and tomatoes. We learned to use our slow cooker. I evaluated my doctors and switched several of them so that they were all using the same hospital system and physically located near one another. We traded in a car with electrical problems for a more reliable one. We began using shared Google docs to keep track of financial goals and other useful information (recipes, loan information, etc). We began using shared Google calendars to keep our schedules visible to one another and set regular dates for financial reviews. We setup a PassPack account and noted it carefully with the benefits of each of our accounts so that we both had full access to all account details shared between us.

All the while, I started eyeing our belongings and realizing how quickly our house turned into a mess. Why? We had too much stuff. Everyone has too much stuff.

If you feel like you need to simplify your finances :

  1. get out of debt (slash your spending, say no, negotiate your balances with credit card companies, work overtime or get a 2nd job)
  2. consolidate your accounts when possible
  3. use rewards credit cards (make them work FOR YOU, not the other way around)
  4. always pay your balances on time
  5. refinance any loans you have (today’s rates are UNBELIEVABLE)
  6. save an emergency fund of at least $1,000
  7. begin retirement accounts AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
  8. use Mint to keep track of it all and watch your net worth grow and grow
  9. SELL YOUR JUNK
  10. stop eating at restaurants

This is the first of several installments regarding simplifying your life. My process to a simple life is ongoing and I will give updates on it from time to time. In this series I will cover:

Return next week for the next installment. Until then, start giving it some thought.

 

 

Does your life feel simple or complex? How has Multiple Sclerosis changed your stress and finances? What ideas do you have for simplifying life?

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