This first Friday isn't necessarily about following, it's about watching. Watching your finances that is.
Back in 2010, Mike and I decided to buy a house. Many of you followed us through the entire ordeal, and you can read about it in my blog archives. The truth is, but examining my finances with a fine toothed comb, I learned a lot about myself.
For example: I eat out more at the end of the month than I do near the beginning of the month.
Why is that? Who knows. Maybe I get fed up with things by that time. Maybe it's my Aunt Flo.
Here's another one: January is absolute hell on my finances. Christmas credit card bills. AAA membership. Costco membership. Gym membership. LA Zoo membership. Hundreds of dollars fly out of my account in that little month, and by February 1st I'm usually in tears.
So after learning that, I went through and changed the ones I could. I got a deal from the LA Zoo that instead of 12 months of membership, I purchased 15 months of membership. Now my bill won't come until March 2011. Ask if you can change the billing month for your annual bills. It might not make a huge difference, but moving that car insurance bill to July sure saves me a couple of tears.
But what am I telling you? That I followed my finances? No.
I'm telling you that I used a free website to do it for me. Mint
I'll say it again in case you missed it: Mint
You go in and tell it everything about your finances and your financial institutions. Then, evertime you log in after that the website automatically goes to your financial institutions and pulls down all of the information that you'll need to analyze your spending: balances, transactions, bill due dates.
It's all there.
Then it helps you put it into categories and shows you in neat little graphs and pie charts where your money goes. If you think you don't spend a lot on eating out, prepare to be surprised like I was. Or maybe it'll point out that you're using a card with an extremely high APR. Perhaps the website can find you a better return for your savings account.
Whatever your problem might be, Mint has a solution for it. See all your transactions, then set yourself some budgets. Finally, set up the email or text message alerts. When I go over a certain budget for that month, my cell phone buzzes to tell me that I've exceeded it. It's a great little nudge in the right financial direction and I highly recommend it to every young adult out there.
I've got my car, my Vespa, my bonds, my two checking accounts, my savings account, my retirement account, my credit card, my mortgage, and my home value all plugged into this one little website. Everytime I log in I get a snapshot of my financial insanity and it helps me sort it all out.