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Back to School: Finance

Posted Sep 06 2012 8:15am

This is my third post in my Back to School series, in order to try to organize myself for back to school life!

Arguably, the area in which I am the weakest in is finances. I’ve never been very good about keeping track of my spending & budget – going back to high school or college. I just sort of expected money to be there and since I had next to or no bills, it worked. When I became an AmeriCorps*VISTA and made poverty level wages for two years, I had to be much more aware of my budget & spending. I used the old school method of writing things down and was pretty successful with it.

(While this bath looks enjoyable, I assume it is also unbelievably dirty. Ew).

Then I got a “big girl job” with a real paycheck – and it was just like dieting. One day I’d binge and spend a ton of money and the next day I’d beat myself up. I’d vow to be better with budgeting week by week and could never quite get my act together. I downloaded Mint.com, read books by Suze Orman and read Money blogs. 

And just like dieting – you can have the greatest of intentions, but if you’re not actually MAKING the changes, it doesn’t work. 

 

I’m also taking the bigger picture into consideration in regards to finances. Doug is excellent at keeping track of his spending and in budgeting. I’m not so great. When I went back to grad school, we worked out our finances so that he pays about 60-70% of the household spending (a higher rent, electricity, less fixed costs) while I pay the other 30-40% of things (lower rent, internet, more fixed costs). It works for us, at this point in our lives/financial situations. Come spring term, I’ll be living on student loans, grant money, savings, education awards and a consulting job that I have on the side. It’s going to be a tight fit in terms of budgeting and I want to use the fall term to “practice” my finance skills. 

Here are two tools that I am determined to use: 

1) Google Docs

Doug helped me set up a budget document, but there’s actually a free template that you can download to use if you’re looking for one. For mine, one column has my monthly expenses, monthly spending and one has my weekly experiences and weekly spending. Another column has my total income for the year, which helps me look at the bigger picture. 

I plan to use my second tool to help me on a day to day basis and then input the information weekly into my Google doc.

2) Mint.com

 

Mint.com is a really cool, easy and intuitive website & app that you can use to track your spending & budget. For those of you who are visual people, it also has really cool charts & graphs! As I said, I’ve had this app on my phone and have used the website before, but not regularly or faithfully. I plan to track my spending each day on my phone, just like I would my calories/meals. I hope this will help me to be aware of what I’m spending on things like coffee, lunch, etc. 

I’m okay with these two goals for now because my overall goal isn’t to save a lot of money at this period in my financial life. The goal is just to not be living paycheck to paycheck, be able to enjoy myself, have fun with Doug while still being responsible and improving my financial habits. :)  
 
How do you track your finances? Any good tools or suggestions!?

 

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