Why do we like to make everything complicated? Does it make us feel smarter or worst yet even normal?
I’m like most people. I go through life accumulating lots of stuff, heck I even enjoy holding onto the boxes the stuff comes in. I think to myself the more things I have, the better off I am. Although that’s a story for another day I have seen how my accumulation for stuff moved to accumulation of financial accounts. Applying complication to my financial life by opening a credit card at a store for a discount, finding a special offer at an alternate bank, I just thought this is how finances worked.
As I graduated college and took on more responsibility, I slowly realized my thinking was flawed. I don’t need to accumulate, I need to consolidate. I don’t have time to look at 20 different online accounts, look at my balances and try to create a budget. The problem was I wasn’t sure how to start or what to do. I was scared to simplify my financial life because I wouldn’t feel normal or be like everyone else.
About a year ago my wife and I started to consolidate our accounts. I wanted to simplify my finances. Finances shouldn’t be complicated; instead they should be enjoyable as you get to be in control of your money, instead of letting it control you. I don’t think I realized how less stressful my life is since consolidating until I filed our taxes this year. Just knowing exactly how many accounts we would receive documents for, (the answer is four) was a huge relief.
Since I have been consolidating I have learned a few lessons along the way.
Stop listening to others. There is a reason everyone is different. We all have different personalities and different systems that work for us. Use this to your advantage. Find out what works for you and stop accumulating, just simplify. Just because one system works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Look around for inspiration. Even though we have different ways of doing things, it doesn’t mean we can’t look to others around us for inspiration. For example, I was using a spreadsheet to track our spending. Now I incorporate Mint.com so we can track our spending easier. It has become an important tool for me to use that I would had never found if I didn’t hear about it from my boss at the time.
Use simple tools. If you don’t like spreadsheets, don’t use them. With all the apps out there today there are tons of products that have ways to see your money where it’s going and how to track it. Each bank has their own app which you may want to start using.
Merge bank accounts. As we go through life we accumulate things that isn’t just limited to stuff, we accumulate a checking account at a bank then open up another bank credit card while contributing to an IRA at a separate financial institution. Make your life accessible in one site, or a limited number of sites. I use Wells Fargo and have a credit card and Rewards card that is comparable to anything out there.
Of course the key to doing any of the above is to be intentional. If you work to complicate things life won’t get easier. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be, remember this acronym, KISS. Keep it simple stupid.