About 8 years ago, I got a letter from the IRS; apparently they thought they owed me money, but needed me to fill out a few forms and provide some documentation.
At the time, such a proposition roused not excitement but dread. I had no idea where to find the information they were asking for. The tax year in question had been a couple years before and had been filed in another state. I had moved two or three times in the interim, and with each move I got exponentially more disorganized, with all the packing and unpacking and repacking.
Some time after I got the IRS notice, I came across the former Get Organized group on ivillage led by Regina Leeds, and I started taming the chaos generated by the frequent re-locations. In the process, I found the documentation the IRS had been looking for. I called up our accountant, who took care of the forms and correspondence for us; I think it cost $80 to have him do so. Within a month, a check arrived from the IRS. The amount: twenty-three hundred dollars.
You'd think this would have been enough to scare me straight in terms of getting and keeping organized, but the memory of that astonishing check faded over the years while the paperwork again began to pile up.
In the last month, I started to restore order with my Circa planner. I created a system for reviewing and storing receipts, and continued to go through small mountains of paperwork teetering in piles and stashed in boxes and drawers. As I took these small steps, I again realized how very much money one stands to save with just a little organizing. While the savings from organizing this past month don't come near to matching that IRS check, here are some of the ways organizing has saved me money recently:
- I found the receipt for some things I'd meant to return, and finally was able to do so. Savings: $28.00
- I found the customer service number and account number for my vendor VISA account, which enabled me to finally cancel it once and for all. Savings: $4.95/month + $19.95/a month for a new fee that would have started this upcoming month.
- I found the customer service number and account number for a service I'd been using, with an eye to closing the account. While in the end I decided to keep the account, just stating my intention to close it prompted the customer service agent to offer me a better deal on it. Savings: $4.95/month.
- I found the promotional material for perks offered through Alpay's work that includes coupons, rebates, and discounts at dozens of stores. Immediate savings: $16.00 off of the water cooler we were planning to buy anyway.
- Having taken the hour or so to research and buy our own water cooler, we can now get rid of the one we've been renting for the past several years. Savings: $11.00/month.
- The success with finding and reading through the information for Alpay's perks encouraged me to look at those offered by my own work place, where I discovered I could have gotten 20% off a recent, rather sizable purchase, had I shown my employee badge. I called the vendor (whose name and number I had written in my Circa); he very graciously agreed to refund me 20% of the purchase price. Savings: $41.00.
None of these amounts are earth-shattering; certainly I'm not going to be able to retire on the five bucks a month I save from closing my VISA account. And yet, it really is amazing just how fast such small savings really add up. Already this month we've saved about $116 and sacrificed nothing for it. It's got me thinking about what other savings I will find, as the Quest continues.