Being organized pays off

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Here comes a few nerdy confessions:

I like neat.

I like clean.

I like organized.

Sometimes, friends call me Martha. You know which Martha they mean! Being organized and together is extra cool to me if it suits my decor sensibility, or invisible, depending on what’s being organized and stored. It makes me anxious if too many little things get ahead of me, and I feel like I’ve lost control of knowing where things are at, like paying the bills, tracking expenditures, or even just putting the laundry away in a reasonable amount of time.

To an extent, the need to be organized comes from living in a small house with little storage. If things aren’t where they need to be, then there’s instant clutter. My mind gets soggy when I see or feel cluttered. I just feel a sense of calm when I’m organized. I’m not being nagged by my own thoughts of wondering if something’s not getting dealt with, or can’t be found, or hasn’t been paid on time.

This past week I was reminded that there’s a cost savings to being organized. I had a call from the branch manager at my local CIBC about the mortgage application to switch a mortgage from MCAP to CIBC. She needed my Notice of Assessment from 2008 and 2007, some obscure title document for the property in question, a copy of my current employment contract, and a receipt showing I had paid my municipal taxes in full on the property for 2009. Some documents she asked me for were less than one year old, some are five years old. She added “the sooner the better, I want to get your deal closed because the mortgage office is really busy!”

For a moment, I felt a bit of panic. Then I realized, I have all that stuff. Within 30 minutes I had all the documentation to the bank. The branch manager asked “even the title document?” and I said “yep, it’s all there”.

It occurred to me, if I couldn’t produce these documents, the mortgage office would have seen me as too high a risk to close the deal. What’s the cost of that? It’s the difference between 3.99% interest and 4.39% interest, plus about $1900 cash back. That’s the cost today. The cost in a few more days is hard to calculate, because my current lender will let their offer of 4.39% expire. If I had to come crawling back, would the rate be as attractive? The cost would be in the thousands of dollars over the next five years.

Technology has really helped me stay on top of this stuff better than I ever did.  I regularly use:

  • online bill payment for a future date
  • record the payment date/verification in my iCal on my MacBook as well as on the invoice
  • Excel

I’ve used some old school tricks too that have transformed my budget management this year, including:

  • putting variable expenses for the month in cash in a jar/envelope (thank you Gail Vaz-Oxlade)
  • writing down expenses on those envelope and keeping receipts for the month
  • maintaining files for various expenses

The mortgage office at the CIBC is still pouring over my paperwork. If they need anything else, I hope I can deliver it as quickly.

Legions of people find getting organized to be very difficult. Some are overwhelmed by it. Loads of professional organizers are keen to help if you need a pro. Yes, they cost money, but how much are we willing to pay the bank in missed payment, late payment, increasing interest or missed opportunity costs because we can’t find stuff?

I don’t mind being called Martha every so often. I can take a bit of teasing. While I don’t think I’ll be doing my own fruit preserves and printing my own labels and wrapping the lids with ribbon and tags, I will continue to put things in their place. I like the benefits!


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