MY Tools for Managing Finances and Helping to Change Spending Habits

TRUTH

TRUTH

Well folks, I started to become a MORE responsible adult ugh. . .

By that statement, I mean that I decided to finally get rid of all of my prepaid things like my phone and my bank account and get the adult versions. See, about 6 years ago when I was financially an idiot and fucking up bank accounts and running up phone bills like it was the thing to do (I ain’t proud but – you know – I was young & dumb), I decided that I was not going to do traditional banking when I couldn’t keep up with the fees and especially when my new job (still work there PT today) only did direct deposit; I had to find an alternative solution and the banking issue brought me to think about my phone issue and that I wasn’t going to do contract phone services anymore either because I hated all the fees attached those and BOOM the ‘Age Of Prepaid’dom’ kicked in!

It was a nice run, smooth services, no fees oh BUUUT as I am now correcting my credit or at least trying to, the realization that I have to start establishing good credit kicked again in so that meant getting rid of the prepaid banking and cellular services.

What’s prepaid banking?

It’s like those cards you see on TV; like the Walmart and Rush cards and others like them. It worked like this:

I get my check deposited into the banking account (there wasn’t a physical bank in this state – Me; MN (they; CA) and with my debit card I can have access to my funds and could use any ATM (of course with the fees) and pay a monthly maintenance fee of $9.95.

THE PROS:

No over-drafting, what you have in our account is what you have so no going over or bounced payments with excessive large fees or random fees of any kind just the monthly fee.

Paychecks deposited a day early. At both of my jobs, I got my paycheck a day before every one else, didn’t know why and wasn’t against it either.

That’s it, easy as a rhubarb pie in the summer time!

THE CONS:

NO reporting to credit bureaus

NO physical bank to go inside of when you have a question (although I must say, up until this year, customer service with them was always on point and fast!)

This is the card I used found at accountnow.com

This is the card I used found at accountnow.com

I loved the service of this card and I think anyone like me, who couldn’t be responsible with a traditional bank account should get one of these to help you curb your spending. You can get a savings card or add another card holder (my 13 yr old son is getting one) and money can be transferred from card to card easily or added at any Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens easily.

BUT since I have learned to manage my money better it’s time to move on to the more advanced banking. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely  horrible with my money but I wasn’t great either. I needed to really SEE my money if you know what I mean. It took me having to keep track of every dollar to realize how much money I wasted doing bullshit and as I still do waste money (umm hello cosmetics!!) I do not waste as much as I used and I owe having this card to help me with that. I learned the luxury of having just one small fee (the $9.95) a month v/s the over drafts I had let happen, I learned to see every dollar and know where it went, and I learned to respect the banking process and that by doing so all shall be alright!

THEN, I also looked at my phone. . . .

I was using Virgin Mobile and have been using it off and on for about 10 years. I’d do a plan/contract phone, fuck it up, close it, open another one, fuck it up, close it. . . .and so on until they blocked my ass from doing that forcing me to prepaid and as I hated prepaid service at first (made me feel like I wasn’t cool enough like the good phone having people) I eventually loved having control over my usage.

Virgin Mobile offers prepaid cellular service internationally

Virgin Mobile offers prepaid cellular service internationally

Virgin was the first company to me, to come out with this prepaid service before the others caught on to the extent that they were offering (now all the big companies offer prepaid options for the credit-challenged folk like me with all the newest phones).

THE PROS:

You get to choose how much you want to spend a month and it can change every month. If you want unlimited everything; get unlimited everything, if you want 300 minutes and unlimited texting; get it and etc. You have the option to create the plans you want and that’s why I love it and my son still uses it. On those months when other bills were late or excessive and I didn’t have $55 for unlimited but had $25 for a plan, I knew I had options.

No EXTRA fees. You pay tax when you ‘top up’ (add money to your account for your service)

THE CONS:

The Phone! With prepaid cellular service you ALWAYS have to pay full price for the phone so that can be a drag and recently Virgin Mobile’s phone selection has gone downhill (another reason prompting me to leave them) but unless you have to have the newest phone all the time then this is not as bad as it sounds. Some phones range from $59 – $599 so you have options. Virgin runs off of Sprint so you will get the same service that someone on a sprint plan will get as far as connectivity which I’ve never had a problem with.

And now here I am:

imadult

Doing the right kind of adult stuff and making the right kind of adult decisions that I neglected to do in my 20’s cause I didn’t feel like growing up right away (0_0′). But I’m doing the responsible thing since I have grown up (in a sense – I’m a kid at heart til the day See.Are.Oh.Ay.Kay) with my adult banking account and contracted cellular service and ok credit with good standing credit card. . . .well whoopty do!! <slow claaaaap>

The difference now is that my mind is working properly, I see my finances before I spend them unlike in the past so I am able to better manage my spending (when I want to because Lawd knows I didn’t need to buy that Kat Von D Mi Vida Loca holiday lipstick set today <clears throat> but I did *thanks Stephie you horrible person you) and that difference matters greatly when you are looking at your outcome and seeing how much you spend on bullshit.

MY TOOLS

I created a budget spreadsheet on excel and everyday I go into work, I pull it up, open my accounts online and add what was spent the day before, if I spent anything.

This is my personal budget spreadsheet

This is my personal budget spreadsheet

I have my incomes in the first section, my bills and utilities in the next section, the extra expenses (items I buy, things I do but are not considered mandatory bills) then I have a total and under that is my credit card with it’s total added into the total amount above it. The red on the end is my yearly spending and the red in the 3rd section is “bad” spending in those categories. This helps me to physically see my money and know when I am fucking up my expenses.

I also have a mint.com account (which I LOVE)

mint

I love this site and everything it does to help you keep track of your money!

I have all of my accounts synced to this account:

manage-your-money

You account looks like this

I love that I can see my student loan DEBT, my income, credit card balances, 401K and what I need to save monthly to take my son on our vacation next year as well as see my credit score. It’s definitely a site I encourage ALL of you to try out even if you are good at managing your money!! It helps me to stay on top of my finances.

Shows your transactions made with all linked accounts

Shows your transactions made with all linked accounts

A chart is made to show you your spending

A chart is made to show you your spending

Some people, like my sister, do not like having an online profile of finances but I’m not afraid of hackers and all that jazz because I know my money is protected and will be reimbursed if fraud occurs which it has in the last 5 years a few times with quick resolutions. I have my phone synced as well so the moment I spend money my phone gets an alert (like a text message) that shows me what I just spent and sometimes it’s so quick that I am still wrapping up at the register.

You don’t have to be a bit obsessive like myself to have this kind of control over your finances but it doesn’t help to know where your money is going to and see your spending habits and good/bad trends. I look back over the months and go, “When the hell did I spend that on that?” like the $405.52 I spent in March on fast food and coffee (yea you read that right!?) I had family in town but still that was astonishing to see, or the $327.71 spent in February on weave when I’ve been bald a year <side eyeing myself> or the three $700+ ATM/Fees in Jan, Feb, and June. Like WTF was I doing with all of this money?! Granted I paid some bills with cash or did grocery and household shopping but just seeing it is mind-blowing so I have been proud of myself  that aside from June’s ATM cash runs, I’ve decreased my spending in all areas drastically because of these tools I use!

money management

It feels good to finally have a hold on my finances but the repairing of the credit is no joke!! I teach my son about money and I even let him see when I fuck up and spend when I shouldn’t have or I’ll tell him that I can’t afford something and when I can. He needs to know how money works for us other than just spending it.

Well folks, I’ve rambled on so I’ll end here and pick up another time. Let me know what kind of tools you use for budgeting or if you’ve used any of what I’ve posted.

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