Saturday, January 9, 2010

Resolution Solutions

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions. Mostly because I like to do things when I want to start doing them, and when they occur to me. However, I usually try to come up with one achievable resolution. I keep it general, and that makes it easier to keep. Three years ago, my resolution was to start running. Last year, it was to walk to school more (more than...twice, so it was surprisingly keepable.) This year, it's to start budgeting my finances. I realize that "managing your money" is a pretty common resolution, but it's important to me for 2010 in particular because I graduate this year. There is a chance I will be gainfully employed in 8 months. And we're getting married. Which means that Mark will suddenly be very concerned that I'm spending all of "his" money on shoes. So I want to be able to get a handle on my spending, so I can know how I'm spending my money, and so we can know how we're spending our money. (Right now the plan is to contribute a percentage of our incomes to a joint account and keep our own money for personal stuff - more on that later.)
So how am I planning to get a grip?
There are a few online resources I'm looking into: mainly mint.com and quickenonline.com to track my credit card spending in one place. Mint.com also has resources that help with budgeting. And it lets you do pie charts. I love pie charts. I decided to go with Mint.com and entered my account info. Mint then produced a pie chart based on my spending. (This is mostly Christmas related, so it's higher than usual.)

To try to get a handle on this, I turned to a favorite resource of savers and cheapos everywhere - www.thesimpledollar.com - which talks about how sites like this are good if you have trouble managing all of your bank accounts, but really, you should simply have fewer accounts. I disagree with this approach - I only have two credit cards, but I really need a way to look at my spending all at once, because I tend to indiscriminately put things on my credit card and debit card. (This is not necessarily a good habit, but I generally resolve to not take on too much self-fixing with my new year's resolutions, so I'm choosing to deal with budgeting for now and general financial savvyness later.)

I feel like this will be a good thing for me personally, and for our relationship generally. We've talked in the past about how much we spend on groceries and other household expenses, and that we don't have a good sense of it, and that we would like to start budgeting a certain amount to spend per year on traveling. We also don't go out much to dinner or movies or other fun stuff, but we both really like doing those things - so I think if we budget a certain amount per month for entertainment, we will do that more, instead of my arbitrarily deciding that I can't afford to go see a movie or go ballroom dancing. I'm cautiously optimistic about this and will let you guys know how it goes.

Any resolutions out there? Anybody have any budgeting tips to share?

1 comment:

  1. I love Simple Dollar. Get Rich Slowly is another favorite. I've been tracking my finances now for about 4 years. We finally combined everything a year ago. I started slow with a Quicken/Excel combo, but now use a mix of the above with You Need a Budget (love this) and Spend (for the iPhone).

    My best tip would be to track your spending for about 2 months before you make a hard and fast budget. This way, you have a realistic starting point. I think lots of budgets fail because we make the more fluid numbers (food for me) up. It's also eye opening to see where everything is going. For example, I used to spend a ridiculous amount on bank fees. Not so, anymore.

    The YNAB philosophy has been the greatest help for us. Basically we live on last months money. Getting out of the paycheck to paycheck trap is the best feeling around.

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