By Melissa Tosetti
In a previous article, I talked about mental clutter, the details that plague our minds on a daily basis such as:
- What am I going to cook for dinner?
- What am I going to wear to that meeting?
- Do I have enough gas to get to work?
Having to answer these questions, at the last minute, on a daily basis places us in a loop that keeps us from moving forward. Our thoughts are constantly focused on immediate needs rather than being able to put mental effort into anything that will help us get closer to our goals.
In order to eliminate mental clutter, you must first identify it. Your homework was to create a list of the day-to-day details that clutter your mind.
Below are just a few ideas to help you begin to break out of your cerebral loop. They’re not new concepts and you may have tried some of them before. The challenge lies in doing them long enough so they become habit.
As you read through the list and identify ideas you want to implement, write them down and keep the list with you. Put a checkmark on your calendar for every day you successfully implement the soon-to-be-habits. After 66 days, the habits will be in place and you will be able to focus your mind on far more important thoughts and ideas!
Mornings & Evenings
The key to reducing the mental clutter that hits first thing in the morning is to plan ahead the night before.
While changing your clothes after work, set aside what you want to wear the following day.
As you make dinner, think about tomorrow night’s dinner. If anything needs to be defrosted, or marinated, you can take care of it right then. It’s also a great time to decide on tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. Again, anything that needs to be taken care of in advance can be done then and there.
Taking your lunch to work not only saves money, but it saves time as well. By the time your coworkers get to their destination and order food, you’ll be finished eating and can use your remaining lunch hour to read, go for a walk or even run an errand. No more “hunting and gathering” your lunch.
Provisions & Supplies
One of the keystone habits for reducing mental clutter, simplifying the week and saving money is to create a non-negotiable day to get to the grocery store.
Instead of having to figure out where you’re going to fit it into your schedule each week, fit your schedule around this very important errand. Remembering that there are no groceries in the house and having to figure out what’s for dinner at the last minute can throw off what was going to be a perfectly lovely evening!
The same goes for fuel. Having a day, each week to get to the gas station will help keep you from having to worry about filling up before getting the kids to school or that meeting across town.
Once a week, ideally the same time each week, sit down and check your calendar for the next seven days. The idea is to look for any type of occasion that is out of your normal routine, requires running an errand or making a purchase. For example:
- Unusual supply purchases – i.e. printer ink
- Gift Giving Events
- Baking cupcakes for your child’s class
You can then strategically plan your tasks and errands for the week. No more staying up until 10:00 pm at night baking cupcakes and then getting up at 5:00 am to frost them. No more running out of ink in the middle of a deadline and having to drop everything to get to the office supply store.
It’s helpful to also look at the following 4 – 8 weeks to give you an opportunity to plan as far in advance as possible – especially when it comes to gifts. The more time you give yourself, the more opportunities there are to purchase what you want to buy at the price you want to pay.
What Else is Haunting You?
As I mentioned, these are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’re struggling with an issue that continues to haunt you, consider asking a friend or family member to help you talk out ideas until you can come up with an implementable and sustainable solution. You can then return the favor!
If you have questions about mental clutter or would like to share your success stories, write to me at
By Melissa Tosetti
Mental clutter. We all have it. The details that plague our minds on a daily basis such as:
What am I going to cook for dinner?
What am I going to wear to that meeting?
Do I have enough gas to get to work?
Having to answer these questions at the last minute on a daily basis places us in a loop that keeps us from moving forward. Our thoughts are constantly focused on immediate needs rather than being able to put mental effort into anything that will help us get closer to our goals.
Mental clutter can also get expensive. By not giving yourself an opportunity to be proactive, being caught in a cerebral loop, you find yourself in a constant state of reacting to the situations and events that arise.
For example, realizing it’s your friend’s birthday and having to run out at the last minute to find a gift, any gift and make the purchase. This habit doesn’t allow you the opportunity to put any thought into what you would really like to give them, let alone a chance to shop around for the best possible price. This results in purchasing a gift you may not be excited about giving and likely having to spend more than you wanted to spend.
Try spending one week identifying your mental clutter and writing it down. Next week we're going to come up with ideas for reducing these thoughts and questions that continue to plague your mind. For now, just concentrate on listing them.
Mental Clutter often strikes first thing in the morning, before we even get out of bed - what a terrible way to start the day!
As we lay there we think:
Did I run out of toothpaste?
What am I going to wear?
Do I have a meeting today that I have to dress up for?
What am I going to make for breakfast?
What am I going to pack for the kid's lunch?
Instead of having to run through a laundry list of mental worries, wouldn't you rather wake up and think:
Tonight I'm having dinner with my friends!
I'm so looking forward to a quiet night at home!
Just two more days to vacation!
Tomorrow morning, as you get up, shower and dress, be mindful of your thoughts. Identify concerns you find yourself having every morning and then continue this process throughout the rest of the day and week.
By Melissa Tosetti
Lindsay Saikrada wrote, “…after all that shopping you likely did during the holidays, you may be looking forward to giving your credit card a rest. But January is an excellent month to bag deals like winter apparel or early Valentine's Day gifts.”
Just the other day I told my husband Paul that I had hit buyer’s fatigue and was really looking forward to a break. Between Christmas and my son Dante’s birthday on January 2nd, I was over this shopping thing.
But, Lindsay is absolutely right. In January, retailers offer some of the best discounts of the year.
What should you be looking out for?
- Knowing the number one New Year resolution is to lose weight, fitness equipment and DVDs are on sale at 40% - 90% off.
- Discounts also begin for winter sports equipment.
- January is also a great time to purchase furniture with clearance sales at 40% - 70%.
- As we get closer to the Super Bowl, televisions will be on sale. Just keep in mind that the prices will be even better after the game.
- Bedding and linen are a January sale tradition.
- Toys are also on clearance. It’s an excellent time to stock up on children’s birthday gifts!
So, before locking your debit card away for the month, check out the sales to see if there are items out there worth purchasing.
By Melissa Tosetti
On Saturday, we celebrated Dante’s 8th birthday. With a second gift giving event so close to Christmas, his room starts to burst at the seams.
He’s a very lucky kid to have so many toys, but as he outgrows them, we have to make sure they get donated. Otherwise, he can’t see what he actually wants to play with because there’s just too much stuff.
There are other parts of our house that needed to be decluttered as well. During the holidays I picked up a few new baking supplies. We have a very tiny kitchen and no pantry so everything has to pull its weight. Last weekend I went through and donated kitchen items I haven’t used in two years. I also found 12 empty jelly jars in a kitchen cabinet that I happily gave back to my mom… hoping for refills when she starts making jelly again in May.
The topic of decluttering comes up more than you'd think during my conversations with clients. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by our “stuff”. So many items transition from desirable objects to burdens.
In January, we have a motivation that we don’t often have the rest of the year. It’s a great time to use that enthusiasm to dive in. Since clutter is an issue that I really struggled with in the past, I’ve learned that some ways are better than others when it comes to attacking it.
One of my favorite tips she offers is to identify tiny projects that will give you a lot of satisfaction. When you start to see tasks actually get done, it’s easy to build on that momentum.
Another one of her tips that I just love is to share what you no longer need this winter. It’s so true that many people out there could really use a warm coat, hat or sleeping bag. That’s an empowering mode of motivation to let go of things you no longer need.
The one tip she offers that I haven’t heard of before, but is brilliant, is to schedule a home pickup date from a charity. There’s nothing like a hard deadline to get you moving.
Like it or not, money affects everything.
It affects where you live, what you eat, what you wear and how you spend your free time. What you spend in one area directly impacts what you have available to spend in other areas.
That's why The Savvy Life focuses on personal finance from a lifestyle perspective, helping people create a strong financial foundation through savvy day-to-day money habits, and also teaching smart spending for your Home, Food, Wardrobe, Travel and Entertainment - because these are the areas where we most often overspend, but with the least amount of satisfaction.
Savvy Living isn't about frugality. It's about:
Through Savvy Living you can do the things you want to do, buy the things you want to buy and visit the places you want to visit and still have a strong financial foundation in place. Whatever your financial dream, it's within your reach.
By Melissa Tosetti
For those of you who’ve attended a Living The Savvy Life presentation, you’ve heard me talk about Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit
. In a nutshell, the book focuses on how to replace negative habits and implement positive ones.
Duhigg also explains why New Year’s Resolutions, on their own, don’t work.
If taking control of your finances is one of your resolutions, then consider focusing on creating a habit that will move you toward your goal.
In my experience of working with clients over the last eight years, the keystone habit that changed everything for them was to Track Their Spending. Right now you might be thinking…
NO! That's like counting calories. Not fun!
I’m not gonna lie to you. At first, it may not be an enjoyable task. But a funny thing happens when you start Tracking Your Spending. As you become aware of where your money is going, you start to spend differently. You start to focus your spending on what is most important to you – a key savvy habit!
Also, as the habit starts to take hold, it becomes something you look forward to doing. I've seen it happen with clients that have protested the most. They almost always become the biggest advocates for the habit.
In order to create the Track Your Spending Habit, consider implementing the “Cue, Routine & Reward” formula Duhigg explains in his book.
For example, a Cue, Routine & Reward system you can set up to Track Your Spending might be:
* As for tracking systems, you can use Quicken, Mint.com, an Excel spreadsheet or the paper check register that comes with your bank checks.
- Cue: Turn on your computer first thing in the morning.
- Routine: Enter or download yesterday’s spending into your *tracking system
- Reward: Read your favorite websites for 15 minutes.
According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. So, to make your habit stick, Track Your Spending every single day. Even if you didn’t spend money the previous day, at least log into your bank account to check your balance. Then, put a check mark, happy face or some other symbol, on your calendar when you’ve completed your tracking habit for that day. If you start on New Year's Day, on Friday, March 7th, you'll reach the 66 day mark.
I’m more of a carrot than a stick person and most clients that I've worked with are too. So, consider giving yourself a reward when you reach your 66 day mark such as dinner at your favorite restaurant. Just remember to mark the expense in your tracking system the next day.
By Melissa Tosetti
Between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, we all had a lengthy list of activities and to-dos. Many of those activities felt like must-dos.
Now that we’re on the other side of the holidays, which ones were worth it?
For me, one of the things I’m so glad I squeezed in was a visit to The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
. The event recreates Victorian London during Christmas time. Carving out ¾ of a Sunday at this time of year wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.
I’m also so glad I accepted the invitation of my friend Liz for a Christmas Craft Party. It was beyond my expectation of fun and we already informed her that we’re inviting ourselves back next year.
I believe that what I chose not to do this year made an equally positive impact on mine and my family’s enjoyment of the season. As much as I would have liked to send holiday cards, I decided to save the time and money I would have spent.
We also chose not to visit Christmas Tree Lane this year. Christmas Tree Lane is a tradition in my home town of Fresno dating back to 1920. It’s a nearly two mile stretch of over-the-top decorated homes which takes a good two hours just to drive through. It’s a wonderful event, but we didn’t want to overschedule our visit with my family.
As you look back over the last four weeks, think about what was worth it and what you want to make sure you do again next year. At the same time, think about what wasn’t worth it so you can ensure you save that time and money next year.