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!


  1. I am very excited about your new blog! I appreciate your honet approach that you are not here to preach and love that you are willing to share personal stories of where maybe you didn't make the best financial choice. While my husband and I fortunately do not have a lot of debt outside of our home, I am also a SAHM who oesnt feel I have the best understanding of our finances. My husband pays all the bills, we have separate checking accts. he transfers me money every pay period and frankly every time I spend every dollar and occasionally he has to transfer me more so I'm not overdrawn. So frankly, I would like to learn to be better with my money. To be able to o to Target without buying something.

  2. I love your blog! I am now managing our finances and am trying to figure out the best way to do that, so excited to follow along.

    I have been using Mint.com for a few years now and LOVE it too.

  3. First of all, I follow you on insta and that is how i found your blog. I love that you are doing this. Last year was my 1st real attempt at budgeting ala Dave Ramsey and it was life changing in SO many ways. I went off the rails only twice all year, ( once after having sister b.c I was fat and nothing fit and then at Christmas). I already have a mint account and can't wait for you to teach me what the heck to do with it!! YAY!

  4. It's like you're in my head with the cute notebook and the new pen...so very me. My other problem though is I'm going to start my budget tomorrow so I better buy these 12 things today before it starts....I'm decent at saving money but I still spend way too much. I have a Mint account but I stopped opening the emails so I'm excited to see what you're going to teach us!!

  5. I have heard lots of people talk about mint.com but never tried it out myself. Setting up account now! Excited to start the new year off with some step by step financial tutorials. Thanks Blair!

  6. I'd really like to manage my money better and start saving more for grad school and post-grad school. I have used mint for awhile but I'm not sure I'm using it the way I should. I can't quite figure out how to budget and see how much I am spending in each category per pay check (I think I am only seeing everything lumped together). Excited to see more posts using Mint!

  7. Just signed up with Mint! Is it bad that this makes me nervous and almost sick to my stomach?!

  8. I love using mint but I have trouble getting real useful information out of it or getting it to help me stay on budget. I'd like to get better at using Mint and budgeting in general since we're trying to save up for a house and right now only one of us is working. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  9. This is really helpful, Lulu! It also helps if you start planning your budget before you hand the paycheck, because it may be hard to resist making an impulse buy when you see something you think you need. Monitor your monthly earnings as well and make a record on every expense you make, if possible. In that way, you can have total control on how much you’re going to spend, and how much you’re going to save. It can also serve as a guide on where you tend to spend your money and where to cut back if needed.

    Sandra Simmons

  10. I also try to track my finances, especially the money I burned through buying miscellaneous items. Anyway, while it’s important to create a budget plan, it also helps if you take total control on handling your money. But it’s good to know that you found a way on how you can monitor the flows of your finances. Cheers!

    Ravi Agarwal @ MEDIQ Financial Services