05/07/2013 06:24 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2013

Moms: Give Yourself a Gift for Mother's Day

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An important part of raising financially responsible children is knowing that they learn a great deal by example. Have you thought about getting your financial "house" in order? You know it's the sensible thing to do, but as a busy mom you have a long list of things that you give higher priority. "I'll get around to it -- right after I turn in that project at work." Or, you tell yourself, "I'll have more time when the kids are away at camp."

You feel the same way about getting your home in order -- cleaning it from top to bottom is daunting. Just the thought of it has probably raised the hairs on the back of your neck.

What if, instead of thinking about cleaning the whole house, or even one room, you only tackled your sock drawer? We all have one -- a drawer or bag or basket -- where we keep all of the mismatched socks awaiting the return of their mates. You can carry those lone, mate-less socks with you from one move to the next -- from college to back home, and on to your first apartment -- and you keep hoping that somehow their mates will return.

You can do it! You can clean it up, and I'm going to teach you how. Throw away the Christmas sock with the sequined wreaths and tinsel packages -- the matching sock has escaped and isn't coming back. Your financial life is the same. Tackle it in small portions. The job won't be overwhelming and soon your financial "house" will be, painlessly, in order.

What are the "odd socks" in your financial drawer? You know the answer to that better than anyone else -- and you know the answer better than you think you do. How do you decide what is most important to start with?

Five Questions To Ask Yourself

  1. What things do I want to start doing about money that I've never done?
  2. What money habits do I want to change that I haven't changed?
  3. What things do I want to stop doing about money that I haven't stopped?
  4. What things do I want to say about money that I've never said?
  5. What things do I want to learn about money that I haven't learned?
For each of five evenings, sit down and answer one of these questions. Write a list of answers -- at least five for each question. When you've finished your question for that evening, put it and the answers away, and don't look at them again. The next night, answer the next question, and so on, until you've finished.

Start each evening fresh -- without reflecting on the previous evenings. Because the questions overlap, you may -- and probably will -- find yourself coming up with some of the same answers to more than one question. That's to be expected.

When the weekend comes, go over your lists. Circle the issues that came up most, and place a #1 by those. Then place a #2 by the next most frequent response and keep going until you've worked your way through the list.

Is it that you need to set real financial goals with your partner? Do you want to talk about money issues with your aging parents? What about young kids, do you want to devote more time to teaching them about money? Is your will in place and up-to-date? You may not know how to approach your financial issues, but you do know the ones that have kept you up at night.

Sample Sock Drawer List and Suggested Solutions
  • Curb spending habits: start now to curb your spending habits, begin by identifying your habits.
  • Make a budget: This is a two-step project -- identify needs and goals you're budgeting for, and put in concrete numbers. Begin using a computer budgeting program.
  • Save/invest: Do this after you make your budget because budgeting will tell you how much you can put into investments and what your medium-term and long-term goals are. Having goals in mind make it easier to save. Make an appointment with a financial consultant.
  • Update insurance: Plan to spend some time on this. Make an appointment with at least two, preferably three, insurance agents so you can comparison shop.
  • Rethink how I deal with kids and money: This one's really simple -- pick up copies of my books Money Doesn't Grow on Trees and A Penny Saved -- read and learn from them.
Now that you have identified your concerns, you can begin to work on them -- not every item on every list, not right away, anyway. That wouldn't be a sock drawer, that would be cleaning the whole house and basement and garage. But how about one item? Now that's a sock drawer. You can, and should, start working on it right away, with a scheduled completion date that's not more than two weeks away.

Please share your Mother's Day stories with us in the space provided.