I have a renewed interest in my finances.
That sounds really terrible and I know that I should always have an interest in my finances, but honestly, I don’t. Like with most things in my life, my desire to sit at my desk and crunch numbers ebbs and flows. Sometimes I can be extremely enthusiastic about the possibility of knowing where every red cent is going and on other days, I’m like, “yeah whatever.” It’s difficult for me to get and maintain that level of consistency needed to get (and keep) my finances straight. And I’m talking straight.
What’s coming out?
What’s going in?
What are the best investments?
Did I make a sound financial decision?
Umm, when is the electric bill due again?
I need systems and tools to see my money clearly and know what’s going on with it at all times.
A case for systems and tools
I should start this part by saying that I love, love, love systems. I am a sucker for routine, no matter how much I try to deny it. The INTJ in me just loves a good systematic approach! That, on the other hand, may not be your thing. You may be a fly by the seat of your pants kinda gal and that’s okay. But let me at least try to turn you out…when it comes to systems.
Systems are the key to consistency. They are what keep you winning. If you have to sit down and devise a plan for paying your cable bill every time it’s due or have various, elaborate ways of finding out exactly how much is due each month, you’re less likely to get it done in a timely fashion. Checking my processes, or the way I do things, I learned pretty quickly that that was a major point of procrastination for me. “Ugh, I don’t want to have to log into each of my bill accounts to pay it!! It’s just too much!” <~~Well, doesn’t that just sound like an entitled millennial? SMH
But spoiled millennial or not, this is where systems and tools come into play and knock it out the park. Let me tell you what I mean.
Tools to help you get your finances straight
Mint Bills. I have fallen deeply in love with Mint Bills. So, so deep in love. As a big picture person, this is perfect for me. I basically have to remember one username and one password, after it’s all set up of course. It then displays everything that’s due this month and when it’s due. Mint Bills pulls all that information from your billing accounts. Another great feature of Mint Bills is that you can connect payment accounts to your Mint Bills account as well and then pay the amount due from that same account! Aghhhh, it’s so great.
Facebook finance/investing groups. I have found my life in Facebook groups. There is just a wealth of information and many people are so giving and forthcoming, I have no doubt that in some groups, members are getting for free, what they’d pay thousands for “IRL.” A Facebook group is where I found out about things like changing my exemptions for tax purposes, consolidating my student loans, investing, etc. Now, just like with everything else, you are responsible for fact-checking and all that good stuff, but it’s a great starting point. A couple of my favorites are Dream Catchers: Live Richer and Girls on the Money.
Credit boards. I’m new to Credit Boards and I’m still learning my way around. So far, though, I like what I see. For someone with A1 credit or who doesn’t utilize credit or care to understand it, this one won’t be for you. Since we’ll be looking to buy a house in a few months, though, we’re monitoring our credit reports and scores very closely. While Credit Boards won’t help with that, it will help you learn your rights as a consumer, how to challenge shiesty collection agencies, and build, build, build.
My Fico Forum. I have been a member of the MyFico community for ages and then some. I joined in my early twenties, left, and now I’m back at it again. My Fico forum is very similar to Credit Boards in that it’s chock full of advice, personal stories of triumph, and a lot more. The difference, in my opinion, is that credit monitoring I talked about before. In addition to the forum, we use My Fico to track our scores and our credit reports. That part is not free, but for us, it’s totally worth it.
Online Savings Accounts. Can I get an amen for online savings accounts with no minimum balance, no monthly fees, and a decent interest rate? I’ve had an online savings account since before ING was Capital One 360. And I loved it! So imagine my dismay when I learned that so many people were paying their local, brick and mortar banks actual money to hold their money every month AND were being offered pitiful little interest rates, if any at all! That is not what’s up. Do some research to figure out if an online savings account could work for you and save those coins! My favorite place to check is Bank Rate to compare rates.
So there you have it! 5 free tools to help you get your finances–credit, bill paying, savings, and investments–straight.