Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First Things First- Where Is All Of That Money Going?!

If there is one thing I've learned about personal finance, it's this-  managing your money is just as much about (or in my case, WAY more about) psychology and emotion than it is about dollars and cents and numbers and spreadsheets.  Think about it- if it were as simple as spending things you're supposed to spend on, and not spending on the things you're not supposed to, we'd all be in fantastic financial shape, now wouldn't we?

In order for us to become successful with managing our money, we're going to have to get into understanding WHY we're behaving the way we are with our money.

I need to paint a picture for you here friends, so if you can just stick with me until the end of this post, I promise we'll start getting to the ACTION part of this whole money management situation.

Let me give you a little glimpse of what my budgeting routine used to look like:

Step 1: Exasperation.  Think to myself "OHMIGOSH (or frankly, insert many expletives here)- I'm broke AGAIN this month.  Where the heck did that paycheck go?!?! I need to be better about managing my money.  Next month, I'm totally making a new budget and getting my spending on track."

Step 2:  Create a plan.  Follow the experts' advice and prepare to track  my spending for the month, so I know where the money is going and can rein in my silly spending.

Buy cute little notebook to carry in my purse so I can write down everything I'm spending.

Buy a new pen to go with the cute little notebook, because using a new pen on a fresh sheet of paper feels amazing.  I've so got this.

Step 3:  Start tracking.  Begin the first day of the month by writing down all the spending I'm doing throughout the day.  Go out to lunch, but decide to scale down my Taco Bell order to a medium soda and lose the small nachos, because I'm totally trying to save money. (Sidebar- wonder if this standard TB order may also be fighting my 'let's try to lose some weight goal' as well?...)

Walk to Starbucks in the afternoon with coworkers.  Decide not to order a drink because I'm totally trying to save money.  Feel good about not having to write the Starbucks purchase in my cute little notebook.

Day 1- Meticulously tracked
Day 2-  Forgot to get a receipt when I went to lunch, so leave a little blank in the notebook and wait until my debit card transaction hits my online banking account, so I can add in the entry.

Day 3- grocery shop hungry, and then put 1/4 of the stress snack food I'm about to buy back on the shelves because I shouldn't be buying it.  Hit the in-store Starbucks on the way out of the door because I'm so hungry I'm seeing double.  Forget to log the coffee because I can barely thing about anything else.  Write down 4 more transactions that day, then remember the Starbucks, white out the last 4 transactions with one of those little white out correction tape pen thingies (because duh, they all need to be listed in perfect chronological order, right?!?) and re-add everything back in.

Step 4:  Downward spiral.  Days 8-10: Forget cute little notebook at home, so track the day on a Post-It note.  Lose Post-It note.

Days 11-14- TOTALLY forget that cute little notebook exists, until the cell phone bill hits the bank account and I realize I only have $3.00 until payday tomorrow.

Repeat Step 1.

...  Does this sound vaguely familiar to anyone here?  I cannot EVEN tell you how many times in the last 10 years I have gone through this exercise, but needless to say I probably could have bought a round-trip plane ticket with all the money I've spent on cute little notebooks and pens.

I finally found a (FREE!) tool to track all of my spending transactions FOR me, and even 6+ years later I love it so much that I'd probably make out with it if I could.  I cannot emphasize to you enough how important it will be for you to sign up for this site and to get all cozy and acquainted with it over the next few weeks, because it will be one of the most important tools for you to have in your personal finance toolbelt.

Are you ready?

Go sign up on Mint.com right now.  

Right this very minute.

This isn't any kind of paid referral-  I'm not getting anything out of this other than the fact that I really, REALLY want you to have this tool at your disposal if you're really interested in getting a handle on your finances.

I'll be walking you through tutorials over the next few weeks on how I use it effectively for our finances, but I'm so excited for you to sign up for the site I don't even want to wait for those tutorials to be finished.  Just go ahead and add all your bank accounts so that the website is able to access your transactions.

Leave me a comment once you've signed up (or to let me know you already have an account you'll be dusting off and updating) so I can do a little excited dance on your behalf.

Happy Mint-ing, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Talk Money, Honey... An Introduction

Welcome to Let's Talk Money, Honey!  I started this blog as a way to educate people about personal finance in a way that is easily understood, and more importantly- easy to relate to.

A little background on me- I was a Finance major on college, and had been a financial analyst by trade for almost 10 years.  In 3 years' time, I went from working fancy corporate jobs in New York City and Phoenix to being a stay-at-home mom in Wichita, Kansas to 2 kids under the age of 2.  Talk about a serious adjustment here, folks.  Few things have stayed the same in my life over the past 10 years (I've resided at 10 different addresses, for Pete's sake!) but one thing has always resonated with me: I have always had a passion for learning- and more importantly, teaching- the subject of personal finance to anyone who will listen.

I want to state VERY CLEARLY here that I am not writing this blog because I've figured this whole 'personal finance' thing out, and have devised the *perfect* plan for you to change your finances (and your life).  Credit card debt?  I totally have it.  Student loans?  My husband took a full-time MBA program at a private university, and used student loans to finance it.  They're not med school-sized loans, but WOAH, NELLY! do my eyes bug out of my head each time I look at the balance.  All this to say, I'm not going to be wagging my finger at you here, and preaching from the "perfect finance" pulpit. 

What I am going to be doing here is talking about the things I have learned with regard to budgeting, saving, retirement, and just about anything else you can fit under the 'personal finance' umbrella.  I may talk about something because it actually worked for me, or may suggest something for you to do because I *didn't* do it an can serve as a cautionary tale.  Frankly, some of what we'll cover here will be topics I need to know more about (renter's insurance, anyone?) for my own personal use.

I'm going to be real on this blog, and I'm going to be honest.  And frankly, I bet I'll be a little embarrassed by the things I have done at times because as a 'finance-savvy gal' I should have known better.  I'm sure my dad will shake his head disapprovingly at some of the things I'll admit to- so I'm apologizing to you in advance, Papa!  But that's the thing about life, isn't it?  You learn and grow from your mistakes, and hopefully try a little harder the next time around.

Being in a stagnant or deteriorating financial situation can seem totally insurmountable, I know.  Instead of going to bed exhausted and happy on New Year's Eve, I went to bed a crying, blubbering mess.  I was so overwhelmed and distraught by the thought of another year passing without making any headway on my* financial situation.  I had a 9 month old baby, another baby on the way, and a part-time virtual corporate job I knew I was going to end in the new year.  I'd say that being beyond freaked out was an understatement.  I was just sick to my stomach with the thought of figuring out how to save for retirement, create 2 college savings account, and have another child on 1 income.

*I say mine here, because even thought we're married we still manage somewhat separate finances in certain categories.  I'll certainly be covering more on this later!

Now, here I am- 365 days later.  And guess what?

I survived.

Not only that, but despite losing my part-time gig and having another baby, we're actually in a better financial situation.  Baby steps here, folks.  It may not be much in the grand financial scheme of things, but I can tell you that I don't go to bed fretting over money every.single.night any longer.

I promise that anyone can get themselves in a better, more comfortable money situation with a little education and focused effort.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, my friends.  If at least one of you can take away a nugget or two of information that will help you to plan for a brighter financial future, than I have done exactly what I've hoped to do with this blog.

So- let's get started!  I look forward to going on this journey with you.

Have a question or topic you'd like covered? Email me at TalkMoneyHoney (at) gmail(dot)com!