i actually enjoy personal finance.
but it wasn’t always that way. it felt a little intimidating at first. what i’ve come to realize is that it’s far more simple than we think. numerous books have influenced how i feel about being a steward of our resources but there are some tools that have remained constant through the last few years that i thought i’d share.
YNAB – I love how intentional a budget is. But maybe not how it calls you out when your spending isn’t aligned with what you say is most important :) (Sidenote: that’s actually been a major personal focus of mine for the last year)
I keep my categories simple:*
groceries & household goods
A budget helps me with restraint (not a message promoted by magazine advertisers or the mall but one that’s important in meeting financial goals). And I like ‘pretty’ so I appreciate the interface of YNAB. I’ve tried a ton of different budgeting programs and this is the one that’s built like i think. (There’s also a smartphone app that allows you to document spending on the go…)
I typically go in once a week to add our purchases – a month would be too tedious and I like being more aware so i manually enter them rather than automating it – I don’t log my spending while I’m out using the app because i have so many payments that don’t take place in person that then i’d need to sift through what i logged and what i didn’t. I hop online to our bank & credit card (we just use one card because i love that simplicity of tracking purchases in one place) and enter activity from there. here’s a peek at the reports page from their website.
my second all time favorite tool is Mint – I use this strictly for the super easy tracking of investment balances and financial goals.
All my retirement accounts are at Vanguard** (remember how much i love simple!) but Jason has a work 401K and Mint allows us to see all account balances in one quick place – and those balances flow in to our one financial goal we have set at mint: a retirement target. Those balances refresh with a little thermometer to let us know how close we are.
(image from their website – maybe it’s just me but in this fictional example, the credit card debt should be paid off with the ‘trip to hawaii’ money!)
the process of being aware of spending isn’t about bean counting – it’s about intentionally directing resources to what we value. alignment feels SO good.
* your categories may be far different – whatever is important to you should have a spot
this budget represents our take home pay so retirement contributions aren’t included here…i like seeing our discretionary spending annually, although there’s an option to remove certain categories from the reports/graphs so you could definitely include that in your budget.
** the top reason i’ve chosen to consolidate at vanguard
the YNAB link provides a discount for you and a small support to this blog – so thank you! (i don’t do sponsored posts, this is a product that’s integral to my weekly home management – you might find that mint or something else free works perfectly for you.)
i hope these are helpful! feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments! at a recent engagement session the topic of budgets came up and i realized SO many clients are creating a new budget based on the huge change of being married so this is just a peek into the simple way we do it.