Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto - Month 3

Greetings!  It's time for another Mid-Month Money Manifesto post.  First I'd like to highlight a couple of great posts that have been floating around the internet lately.  Misris posted about 5 steps to fiscal responsibility.  This girl has paid off all of her student loan debt and is in her 20s, so clearly she knows what she is doing!  And then Ashley posted about How to Get out of Debt.  She has a blog that chronicles her journey towards becoming debt free which is really inspiring as she did it by working 55+ hours a week on top of being a full-time PhD student.  Inspiring stuff! 

Anyways, back to the post at hand.  Since the beginning of the year, I've really worked hard on getting a handle on my cash flow.  What I mean by this is that I have done a lot of analysis of what is comes in (rent from my tenants + paychecks from work) and what goes out each month.  While you may have months where you spend more than you made (like this month when I am using savings to pay off medical bills), in general, it's obviously not a good idea to spend more than you are making.  But in the cash-less society we live in, it's easy to get out of touch with your cash flow situation - especially if you aren't considering purchases being made with a credit card. 

I needed to get a handle on what I had left each month so I could set up some realistic goals for additional payments to put towards debt.  There are lots of great tools out there, but I have been using an online money map application that my bank provides - it tracks all spending between my checking/savings/credit card accounts, and classifies those expenses by type (restaurants, retail stores, groceries, mortgage, etc).  I know there are other programs out there, such as mint.com that do something similar. 

In addition to getting a handle on my cash flow, I also set a budget for each spending category and have been holding myself accountable to those budgets.  That means watching what I spend on groceries, meals outs, and places like Target.  It hasn't been easy, but it's nice to see that cushion between what I earned and what I spent grow each month. 

Do you pay attention to the cushion between what you earn and what you spend?  Do you use any applications, like mint.com to track your spending habits?

24 comments:

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Glad you are doing so well with paying attention to what you spend :) I use a credit card, but I never buy anything I don't have the money to pay- or at least won't have later in the week. Eric was raised that you can buy something on a credit card and pay it off later and I am SO confused by this philosophy- with interest now your purchase cost so much more- doesn't make sense!!!

Anyway, I use mint.com but not frequently just to kind of watch different areas of spending (especially travel, ahem haha). What works best for me is setting a savings goal each week and sticking with it as much as possible. I'm not good at watching exactly how much I spend in each area, but if I know I have a pretty high savings goal each week I'll pay much more attention to each individual purchase. So far this year I set a goal and I've met it every single week except the week we were in Arizona. Not too bad :)

abbi said...

I track our spending in a spreadsheet each month and have for a couple of years. It boggles my mind that people can justify spending more than they can truly afford, especially on needless items/vacations/etc.

Gracie (Complicated Day) said...

W do use mint, although it has its shortcomings, but we're pretty attentive to our financial situation regardless. The only debt e still carry are my husband's student loans, which have a low principle and an unbelievable rate of 1.8%. I suppose we should pay those off, too, but there is little incentive!

Caroline said...

I've been paying a lot of attention to what I'm spending, too. I use mint.com, which is really easy for me because I'm a visual person. I'm still trying to figure out what my budgets are for things like groceries, but in general I just try to spend as little as possible and treat myself to something every once in a while.

Raquelita said...

I do pay attention to my cash flow (we use mint.com) and try to keep above a certain threshold in my savings. My savings are going to take something of a hit over the next few months because I owe in taxes this year, am having oral surgery next month, and am paying for my research trip to Madrid out of my own pocket. (Because I'm leaving my current institution I'm no longer eligible for several grants that I was planning to apply for and another grant competition got canceled this year due to the economic crisis in Europe.) We will still have savings, though, and hopefully both my spouse and me will be making more money next year so we can put more into savings and into paying off my student loan debt.

missris said...

I don't use mint.com--instead I use an old fashioned Excel spreadsheet! Being kind of a data nerd, this is really exciting for me. I can look at trends and even plot my spending in various categories! I have about 1.5 years of data, which means that I have a pretty good idea of what I should be spending, etc. I think tracking everything is a great tool, and it sounds like you're super on top of things!

pinkflipflops said...

I don't, but my husband does. I used to be all up to speed on our finances but honestly? My brain is too mushy right now. Just tell me when to reign in the spending hahaha.. We don't spend more than we make though. And I haven't read the the posts you linked yet, but I am in awe of someone paying off their student loans in their twenties, especially since I have yet to earn what I owe in student loans in my twenties. Boo for no full-time jobs. ;P

Carolina John said...

I love me some Dave Ramsey and watch our input/output every month by paying for almost everything in cash. I got notified that one of my tenants is moving out at the end of the month. at least I can sell that house easier now.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Sweets and I started working with a financial planner a few years ago. We added life insurance for a host of reasons. And have been put to task on our spending. We definitely have adjusted how we spend money, though we don't closely track where every dollar and cent goes.

Jess @ DudeandSweets said...

I know exactly what we spend compared to what we earn. But, the margin between the two is so slim that it's not even worth ruminating on.

Life with four kids, I think. But. I will say that we don't have debt. No credit cards or loans, so our ability to live on cash does benefit us long term.

Nora said...

Sounds like you have a good handle on your cash flow!I think software is a great way to track spending... probably somethign I should look into as I'm sure I'd be amazed at how much I spend at places like Target =)

I try to leave a cushion in my checking account each month (on top of what I save) and use my credit card only for emergencies when possible. So far it's working ok, with a few blips here and there (ahem, new tires!)

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I don't pay TOO close of attention to it but I do automatically distribute my paycheques and my brothers rent into a variety of random savings accounts I have when I get them and then leave myself with approx. $100 a month of spending money. If I am going to make a bigger purchase it usually comes out of one of my savings accounts. For example, this month I had to renew our contents insurance and that came out of "house and savings".

A few things I really need to do that I've been putting off is calling our banks and changing our mortgage to weekly or bi-weekly payments instead of monthly because apparently then we pay less interest and also trying to re-negotiate the interest on our car loan as the lady even said when we bought it that it's quite high and we should call them in a year to negotiate it down. I need to stop putting this off and just do it! This post of yours may be the kick in the butt I need to do that finally! :)

Stephany said...

I've been doing a whole lot better with my budget recently. I'm using this spreadsheet I found from a blogger and have tweaked & added to it to help me with the different things I'm saving for currently (two cruises! A wedding! Ah!) and then it helps me break down what I will use my upcoming paycheck for and what I have left over to spend/save. It has been a LIFESAVER. It's actually made budgeting... fun? Geeky, I know. ;)

What I do need to get better at is tracking what I use my "spend" money on. I may need to start using some sort of cash system for that!

imlivinginadream said...

I still desperately need to do what you did- set limits in each spending category. That's SO important, especially for me because I tend to overspend in the coffee and/or food categories when there really is no reason to. Thank you for the lovely post and reminder! Keep up the inspiring work :)

Marlys said...

I think it is so smart to set a budget and work to pay off your loans! The society we live in today appears to spend beyond their means and I truly believe that credit cards are to blame!

Jeanie said...

Target gets me every single time. I go in with a list (a small list)and come out with a cartfull. But am trying to sve better, follow lists more closely. You're smart to get a handle on this at your age. SO SMART!

Abby said...

I never was much of a "budgeter" until I started actually working and saving. Ryan also played a huge factor into that.

We've made a rule that no matter what we always have to put a certain portion of our month cash in - into a "cushion account", and we are not allowed to touch that unless in case of emergency.

Kyla Roma said...

This is such an important thing- but I have to admit that I'm not as careful now as I had been in the past. I used to use a great iPhone app for tracking my expenses, but I stopped using it a while ago and I think this is a great reminder to me that I should start!

The one I used to use was called Spend and it was a bit help. I prefer iPhone apps because I can enter my expenses as I buy them at the register rather than trolling through my receipts later ;)

Kyla Roma said...
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Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Once again, we are in very similar boats. I use a combination of Excel (nerd alert) and my bank, which has a tracking program. I always put a little aside into savings and another little aside into my 401k before I pay the rest of the bills. Then I pay the bills. Then I assess what I have left and pay for "frivolous" things accordingly.

But even after that, I usually end up with a little more to put in savings at the end of each month. I am just a natural hoarder of money. I always feel like I need to save it for something in the future. Which is funny, because it kind of goes hand in hand with your "smell the roses" post. I am saving up for _____ (the future), instead of spending it now.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I pay attention to what I make and spend by ensuring that I "pay myself first" ... my work pension contribution comes off my check automatically each month (about 800-1000), and then I also contribute to a tax-free savings account to save a bit more for retirement and then I put money each month into different accounts (one for vacations, one for emergency fund, etc). I find that having multiple accounts that are all accessible from the same card and at the same bank is really helpful for saving. I like to separate my money.

Becky said...

I like the idea of something like mint.com but the paranoid part of me gets really nervous about putting SO much financial information online. We have a spreadsheet I create every month for our budget and we are really starting to stick to the "cash envelope" system for everything (except bills we pay online). Ben and I are both visual people so to actually see how much money we have for groceries is a lot more effective than just swiping our check card at the checkout counter.

San said...

I think it's fantastic that you're budgeting and trying to get a handle on what's coming in and what's going out... I am using mint.com myself to track spending, although I have to say that my spending is not out of hand enough to really set a budget (which I could do to put aways some extra money each month for sure!).

Ashley said...

Thanks for including me in your post!

It took me a while to adjust to monitoring everything after I had finished paying off my debt. It was honestly pretty easy to do when I was working to get out, because I took in so much and spent so little! Even now, it takes diligence.