4 Ways to Marie-Kondo Your Family Finances
While Japanese organizational guru Marie Kondo's KonMari Method has helped pare down closets and kitchens the world over, it can also be applied to other areas of our lives—like our finances.
It's no secret that Marie Kondo has become something of an organizational phenomenon.
In fact, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and star of Netflix's Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, has also sparked a larger conversation about how our stuff can either spark joy, or can actually prevent us from living a joyful, uncluttered life.
While her eponymous organizational strategy, the KonMari Method, has helped organize and pare down our closets and kitchens, it can also be applied to other areas of our lives—like our finances. We spoke to several experts on how to "Kondo" your finances, from staying on top of your bank account to how to make your finances spark joy. (Yes, really.) Here's what they said.
1. Streamline Your Bank Accounts
Organizing doesn't necessarily mean paring down.
"Multiple accounts are a really helpful way to get more organized when it comes to your money," notes Alicia McElhaney, co-founder of She Spends and a financial coach with Brooklyn Plans. "It helps to have one for bills, another for savings, one for checking, and others depending on your needs. It just makes it much easier to visualize and understand where your money is going."
This idea is firmly in line with the KonMari Method, which proposes organizing by category, rather than location. McElhaney suggests setting up auto transfers into each account each month. That way, you'll know your money is going exactly where it needs to—without even thinking about it.
And as with organizing one's home, sometimes nostalgia can get in the way of organization.
"Begin by taking stock of what you have," suggests personal finance expert Janet Alvarez of Wise Bread. "Many accounts we rarely use, but we keep for reasons we don't understand, such as nostalgic value… Ask yourself, what does this account add to my life? Can I live without this account, can I be happier, live simpler, lighter without this account? Which accounts add meaning to my life?"
2. Get the Full Picture
One of the ways the KonMari strategy helps you stay organized is to store everything in a way that allows you to see it. For example, the method of folding your clothing and arranging them upright in a drawer so every article is visible. A similar principle can be applied to your financial life.
"If you don't have an account with Mint.com or somewhere else that allows you to get a full view of your net worth and full debt, do so. That allows you to get a full understanding of where everything is," Alvarez says. Mint.com's visuals, such as pie charts and graphs can give you a better idea of where your money is and where it's going, she notes.
You Need a Budget is another organizational tool that helps you gain a more well-rounded picture of your finances. Your bank may also offer a similar tool.
3. Stay on Top of Other Accounts
Like many of us, you probably aren't just worried about incoming and outgoing funds. Debt payments, like student loan bills, and your investment portfolio are also likely a big part of your financial picture. And they're probably an area that could use a bit of decluttering, as well.
First, let's talk about student loans. "Refinancing is a great way to roll all of your loans into one payment with a different (usually smaller) interest rate," McElhaney says. "That can ensure that you don't have multiple payments going in different directions. You can also set up auto-pay so that each month you pay the same amount and it just gets pulled from your checking (or bills) account.
Your investment portfolio should also be organized in a clear and uncluttered way, so you can have a clear understanding of where your money is, how it's growing, and how you can improve that growth.
"One of the challenges when you have money invested in different accounts is you don't necessarily have a good understanding of your total portfolio," Alvarez notes. "It doesn't give you a holistic view of where your money is."
She suggests using a free or low-fee investment advisor or robo-advisor (such as Betterment or Wealthfront) to help keep all your investments in once place for a single, low fee or no fee at all. Plus, this option will also take care of rebalancing your entire portfolio.
4. Track Your Joy
Joy probably isn't the first word that comes to mind when you think of managing your finances. But it is possible to make sure your daily and monthly spends have a positive impact on your life.
"Track your spending for a month or two and consider how your purchases made you feel. Were there certain things that really brought value to your life? Or others that truly made you more stressed than happy?" McElhaney says. "At She Spends, we talk a lot about spending victories and regrets. Thinking about what you value is a great way to not only save money but to also become more clear on what you want your money to do for you."
So perhaps it's time to clean out your financial closet, KonMari-style.