“Does it spark joy?” We’ve been hearing that a lot these days. I talked about the Marie Kondo phenomenon in a recent newsletter (sign up to receive them here!). Her philosophy about surrounding yourself only with things you love makes a lot of sense to me. My close friends and family know my closet is well-edited with items I truly treasure: Many hoodies and fabulously soft T-shirts. They bring me joy!
For me, beyond the basics, the KonMari method translates into financial wellness on many levels.
What should I get rid of? Start with debt!
Debts of any size can suck a lot of happiness out of a situation. If you’ve got credit cards, student loans, and bills hanging over your head, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. The average U.S. household with credit card debt has an estimated $6,929 in revolving balances. But much like getting started clearing your home of clutter, making a plan to knock out your smallest debts can give you the motivation to tackle the bigger ones that might be lurking in the background.
And speaking of that …
Don’t be so quick to buy [insert quick-fix here]
When you’re wandering the aisles of a store and thinking about a purchase, mentally fast-forward a few years into the future. Can you picture really treasuring the item you’re considering in three years’ time? Or can you imagine it in a pile of things destined for Goodwill? It’s a good exercise to make yourself really consider the value of what you’re buying and whether it has the staying power to spark joy years down the line.
One of the ways Marie puts it is, “Do you want to take this into your future?”
While you’re picturing said future, you can start thinking about what you want your life to look like a few years down the line. It can help you define some of your long-term goals, and that will help with a strategy—and the willpower—to actually save for your long-term happiness.
And unneeded purchases aside, there’s plenty of other ways Americans are wasteful with spending—including unused gym memberships, ATM fees, wasted food, and expedited shipping charges.
Which leads us to …
What are your priorities?
Do you want to travel Europe? Start a family? Buy a first home (or a second home?!)? Retire early?
Emergencies aside, if something doesn’t bring you joy, are you spending your hard-earned money on it? (Or wasting it on things like fees and food waste?) Take a look at what you’ve spent in the past week, and the past month. Are you 100% behind all of the decisions you made? The lattes, the Amazon purchases, the lunches out, etc., etc. Are those purchases falling in line with your master plan? If the answer is anything less than, “Heck, yes!”—take a step back and consider your priorities. What’s really bringing joy to your life? Answering that question could change your relationship with your bank account in a very positive way.
When you think of your finances, how do you feel? Calm, cool, and collected, or a little nervous and uncertain? Part of the answer might lie in your financial plan (or lack thereof). Do you have a realistic expectation of what your monthly bills will be, an idea of how much you’ll contribute to savings each month, and a benchmark you try to hit for your monthly discretionary spending?
Setting estimates for these categories can help center yourself and your spending, and take some of the uncertainty out of the equation. Even if you exceed your estimates, it helps to pay attention to the trends of your life, so you can revisit and re-evaluate how worthwhile the overages are.
Back to clutter …
The nervous and uncertain feeling could also stem back to the paper trail. Are your bills, documents, statements, and tax information where you can easily find them and reference them when you need them? They might not bring you joy, but it will take a lot off your mind to know they’re where they should be, and well-organized!
Kelly Luethje is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Willow Planning Group, LLC. She provides financial education and guidance to help you live life on your terms. Kelly can usually be found on a mountain, or by a lake, working virtually with clients across the country.