Thursday, June 20, 2013

So, money isn’t the sexiest topic for most people but getting your finances in order is a must if you ever want to be something more than broke and fabulous. SO, let’s talk.

When I was in college, I fell prey to the low balance high interest credit card pushers outside the student union. I racked up some debt and went over my limit.

My mom was upset as she was always a stickler for maintaining good credit and not living beyond your means. When I graduated from college, she gave me a book by Suze Orman. I skimmed it a bit but never really committed to reading the whole thing. I was 20. I didn’t have a job yet and was going on to law school. I decided to worry about finances at the end of my education journey.

I did manage to pay off my credit card debt during law school. By the time I graduated, I had no debt except my school loans. My car was paid for and I was saving to buy my first home. Then, the economy tanked and I lost my job. I found a new job within 6 months but it was for about an eighth of my former salary (no, you didn’t read that wrong). I liked the job because I felt I was making a difference in my community but the salary was a serious adjustment…one that required Ash and I to dip into our savings to pay bills until we could find a new place and downsize.

Ultimately, I was offered and took a new job and we didn’t have to move. We did deplete our savings and we had credit card debt that had to be deferred. Now, we are rebuilding our savings but we’ve pretty much cleared credit card debt.

The whole experience was a crash course in financial planning and the lesson is ongoing. Now that I’ve finished the longest introduction ever, I can get to the point. I decided to start a new feature for the blog. I’m calling it Money Matters—because, well, it does. It doesn’t buy happiness but it makes a difference and if you plan correctly, it will save you a lot of stress.

I’ll post about savings, investing, budgeting, shopping deals, and anything else you want to hear about money. Have a request? Post it in the comments section.

I’m kicking it off by recommending some online tools you can use to get a sense of how you’re spending your money. It really helps to get all of your information in one place before you prepare a budget. Then, the budget will be more realistic. Trust me, it’s easy to say “We’ll spend $200 a month on entertainment” until you realize that you are currently spending twice that amount.

Here are the sites I’ve used. If you have sites and tools you love for budgeting and tracking, feel free to leave the name of the program in the comments.

Mint-- Mint keeps all of your expenses and balances in one place. It will also calculate your average spending in any category to help you easily create a budget based on historical spending. You can also use it to compare your spending year-to-year or month-to-month.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad Personal Financial Calculator—You have to fill in your expenses each month and the spreadsheet will analyze your spending habits and give you tips on what to do to be “financially free.”

Suze Orman Expense Tracker—Suze Orman is a known financial guru that helps you get honest before you can get moving on your goals. The expense tracker will help you set out all of your expenses so you know exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out.

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