Wednesday, January 14, 2009

married life: {budgeting}

historically, i haven't been very good about budgeting.  in my professional life, no problem.  but when it comes to my personal finances, i've really just hoped for the best, then worried.  i worried a lot.  well, i don't really have any resolutions per se this year, i don't want to set up too many expectations and i really just want to live one day at a time.  we also really want to seriously start saving to buy a house.  it's not easy to save in los angeles for me and it's not easy to find an affordable house.  but i really want to start managing my finances better, one day at a time.  i also really wanted to let go of all my worrying about money.  and i felt like if i knew how much i spent, i can make a better budget and be more aware of how much money we have. and if i have a better handle on it, i don't worry so much.  the "what if's" aren't as powerful.

so, although i'm unemployed, i signed up to meet with a financial planner.  i met with her last week and she sent me home with lots of homework.  figure out my expenses, my assets, etc.  rather than dwell and get depressed, i started right away.  earlier in the year, i had signed up for, then forgot all about it.  i never checked anything on it.  but in order to do my homework from the planner (and to start thinking about taxes!), i logged back on to mint.  

i have to say, it's been great.  yes, you do have to give your bank passwords, so i was a bit hesitant, but i've read a lot of reviews about it and it seems secure.  frankly, so much of our lives are online now, that a breach could really come from anywhere, so i decided to trust and use the program and it's been really helpful.

each transaction is automatically assigned to a category, which i can easily track. since january, i've been going on everyday as part of my daily online presence.  check email, check blogs, update mint. it just knows that target is "shopping," but if i want to add a label, a tag, or get more specific, i can.  

once i labeled my transactions, i can see my spending patterns.  they have great color coded graphs, which i love.  it's so much easier for me to get an idea of what i'm spending if it's
 in a nice visual picture!  i can click on the "food" portion of the pie and it will break it down in smaller increments:  "groceries" vs. "restaurants" for example.  and once in "groceries," i can click on a specific vendor.  that's where i really learned a lot and started to think about our spending patterns.  i was shocked--really shocked--at how much we spent at whole foods.  we had gotten lazy and did a lot of our shopping at whole foods and it really adds up!  it's made me so much more aware of where we are spending.  i try to eat well, as organically and locally as possible, and if i want to eat locally, i can go to the farmers markets.  much more local and
 WAY cheaper than whole foods!  plus, i really don't want to support whole foods management, as the owner is very republican and a big pal of george w. bush.  so analyzing our spending patterns has really helped me get back in touch with my values.  put my money where my mouth is.

lastly, i've created a budget that i'm working from.  they created one for me based on our monthly spending patterns, but i adjusted their "suggested" budget.  and the tracking is very simple and visual, which i love.

so, today i managed my money.  tomorrow isn't here yet, so i'm not going to worry about it. steady happy, one day at a time.


Journal of a ____ said...

Great post! I've started worrying about money a lot lately too. Could be that I lost my job and then found a less-than-thrilling substitute or could be that we have to start saving for our move back to Cali! Thanks for the info about mint - interesting - I may have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

i loved this blog!! great advice about mint!! i too worry about money all the time, how much we're spending, where its going etc. this might make my mind at ease!


Just read this- never heard of but thanks for the info. I think Melaleuca is going to be implemeting a similar program as a member benefit. I'm like you- finally getting serious about finances and just keeping track. I just completed my P/L both personally and professionally for last year and the bottom line is I gotta make more money!!! :)