5 Free Tools to Help You Get Your Finances Straight

Girl in boots

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.

Knowing:

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.

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Managing Debt & Living Life

This is a sponsored post by Denny’s. All opinions (and debts) are mine.

Managing Debt

I’m pretty sure that I have more debt than the average 27 year-old millennial. Between mothering a kid with a chronic medical condition (hospital debt!!) and my shiny degree from the ritzy, private college, I owe people a lot. A whole lot. I’m not talking about, “OMG, how am I going to pay off this $5000 student loan that I just had to get to cover my last semester in college?” lot, but an “OMG, my insurance didn’t cover my C-section, my kid spent 12 days in the hospital when I’d just changed jobs and didn’t have insurance yet” kind of a lot. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think of how much debt I’ve accumulated in my short 27 years. I’m trying to buy a house for goodness sake! That’s even more debt, even more people to owe. Ugh, what’s a girl to do?

Living with lots of debt

To be fair, I’ve had the internal tug of war between throwing everything I have towards the debt versus just living with it–on a near daily basis. It’s hard to willingly “blow money” on fun things when you have so much debt hanging over your head, day in and day out. In the end, though, I’ve always sided with living with the debt, doing what I can to manage it, but not stopping my life because of it. I just feel like life is too short to always be living for tomorrow. Yep, debt elimination is important and something that everyone should strive for. But am I going to miss out on any part of my life because of it? Not a chance.

I know this sounds like something a cocky millennial would say and that’s probably because I’m knee deep in millennialism right now. At 27, I see things a bit differently than, say, a 37 year-old might. I’m in the thick of it, with a family, and I’m doing the very best I can to manage my debt, but still live my life.

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Setting Personal Finance Goals

personal-finance-goal-setting

settingfinancialgoals

When I first started this blog, I talked a little about my personal finance goals.  At the time, it was more of setting personal finance goals, than actually digging down deep into the topic of personal finance.  I wanted to stay surface-y because “I didn’t know enough” or so I thought.  This year, I want to do both–focus on setting personal finance goals and digging down into the thick of personal finances.  I want to join the conversation as it relates to money for my own selfish needs, but also for my readers.  My goal is to be a resource and fix my finances in the process.

So, what happened to my finances?

I gave up.  Really, it’s that simple.  I stopped trying.  Instead of committing to working with the funds I had, I set out to make more and more.  Big mistake.  Why? Because if you can’t handle a little bit, you damn sure can’t handle a lot.  Sucks, but it’s true.  Ever wondered how people can win the lottery and end up broke in two years?  Well, there it is.

Now, let me be honest and say that my issue around money is 98.5% mental.  When I said that I stopped trying, I meant that I stopped trying to better my finances.  I seriously just left ’em be.  I saved a little here and there, but nothing significant.  If I needed to pull a little bit out every once in a while, I did it with little accountability.  My mindset got screwed up and I made bad decisions by not making any decisions.

So, what happens now?

I get back on track.  The focus can’t remain on just making money, if I’m not managing it correctly.  I honestly think that a person can have all the money in the world and still piss it away by not properly managing it.  And this has very little to do with reckless spending by itself.  Like I said, it’s mostly mental.

So, what does all this mean?

It means that I’ve made a commitment to end 2015 financially better than I ended 2014.  I need to see significant progress in a few areas of my life, finances being one of them.  I had some goals that I did not accomplish and it’s all because of inaction, fear, hesitation, and a mindset of lack.  And that’s the truth.  It was all me.

I need to get back on track.

My 2015 Financial Goals

  1. Earn $30,000 in outside money–This is money outside of my 9 to 5.  This is everything including blog income, selling stuff on Ebay/Craigslist and any other way I can come up with that’s legal.
  2. Save $10,000 for the emergency fund
  3. Save $10,000 for a down payment
  4. Invest–This is super open because I don’t know enough yet to make it specific.  As I learn more, I’ll update that goal.

I’m keeping it really simple this year.  Like stupid simple.  I’m usually one to get all overwhelmed by the number of goals I’ve set for myself and then get stuck.  Not this year.

Did you meet your financial goals for 2014?  How or why not?  Have you set any goals for 2015 yet?

 

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If You’re Not Price Matching, You’re Losing Money: 4 Tips on Making the Process Easier

price matching

While I wouldn’t consider myself the “Queen” of price matching, I am definitely a “QIT,” that is, Queen in Training.  I mean, it figuratively burns my soul to pay full price for something when I know that I can get it cheaper somewhere else.  And for that reason, when it’s time to go grocery shopping, there are a few things that I always do to make my price matching a smooth and seamless process:

  1. Put the date on it–This is totally something that we used to say in high school and I really have no idea what it really means. For this purpose, however, it will mean to be mindful of when you’re shopping.  For me, Sunday morning is the best time to shop for groceries.  The stores are usually fully stocked and most folks are at church or at home being lazy.  For you, that means you can take your precious time and price match ‘til your heart’s content.  Does the ad say $2.99 for a 4 lb bag or 5 lb?  By taking your time, concentrating and not feeling rushed, you are less likely to make mistakes, get frustrated and say, “To hell with it.”  Or is that just me?
  2. Leave the kids at home—I used to love to take my daughter grocery shopping with me and at times, I still do.  I have recently come to the conclusion, though, that I cannot fully concentrate on saving money when all I hear is, “Mama, mama, mama.”  It’s just too much and my tiny brain cannot handle the pressure.  It’s much easier (and faster) to ditch the kid leave the child at home with a responsible adult when price matching.
  3. Make a list and check it one and a half times—Why one and a half?  Well, because I always start checking my list for mistakes, overlooked items, and missing info, only to stop midway through.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  I’m trying to get out of the house before my “tail” wakes up. See point 2 for reference.  Anywho, when price matching, you MUST make a list.  There ain’t no if, ands or buts about it.  A list will save you money, time and your sanity.  On my list, I usually write down the item, the price, the size and the store that’s offering the deal.  I also attach the ad because even though Wal-Mart says that you don’t have to show the ad, sometimes their cashiers be trippin’.  I’m just saying. 
  4. Racial profiling is bad.  Cashier profiling is good.—Even though the “rules” of price matching are pretty clear, there are some ambiguous areas and if you pick the wrong cashier, you will find out what they are.  This is where the art of cashier profiling comes into play.  You want to pick the most disinterested, I-got-better-things-to-do-with-my-time looking cashier in the building.  They will be the ones who are very unlikely to question you or even realize you’re there for the most part.  In the price matching world, these are your friends.  Love them. Love them hard.

Do you price match?  What are your tricks and tips?  Let’s chat!

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