Keeping on top of Finances when you’re Busy

We all live in a crazy hectic world where we often don’t have time to stay on top of the things in our lives. I’m a perfect example of this; when life gets busy I have to set aside things that aren’t as important. In the midst of all the turmoil of our lives there are a few things that we simply can’t drop to the wayside and I would have to say that finances are one of those things. Unfortunately hearing that household debt is still rising it seems that this is not the case.

The challenge is to set aside time for the important but often unpleasant things in life because if we don’t the long term consequences can be pretty devastating. For me I can easily stay on top of my paying my bills on time and the good news is that the people we owe money too will remind us if we don’t. But that doesn’t mean that there is any progress forward. I found that this was the situation for me so I started doing a few things to not only keep on top of my bills but at least at a minimal level my finances.

Here is a short list of things that i have done to stay at least partially on top of my finances:

  • Use Mint.com to track my spending
  • Automatically deposit money into Savings
  • Set up direct deposit on most of my bills

I will admit that because things have been very hectic I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to clearing up my finances the way I should. But at the minimum the tactics above allowed me to know what’s going on.

Mint.com
I use Mint.com to track my spending; its an online service attached to my bank accounts that allows me to see all of my banking and spending in one spot. It categorizes spending and lets you set budgets and track your progress against them. While not a perfect system it definitely allows me to see that in June I spent X dollars on gas and lets me trend this over time which is a great way to start gaining some control.

Mint just happens to be the system I use but there are others out there that perform a similar function and your bank might have one.  This has kept me from trying to constantly remember where I spend my money.

Automatic Deposit into Savings
One of the things I’ve always struggled with is setting aside money for savings. Inevitably I’ll spend most of my money before the next pay and there’s nothing left for savings. So what I did here was pretty simple – I called the bank up and set up an automated deposit into a savings account that purchases an index fund. This means that the money leaves my account on the day that I get paid. If you’re worried about this start small (even $50 a month adds up)

Direct Deposit on Bills
This one is not 100% complete for me but most of my bills automatically drawmoney out of my account on set days of the month, it’s clean and simple. Where setting an automatic debit wasn’t possible I went onto my banking website and set up an automated bill payment again at set times of the month. Most banking websites allow you to create this memorized list. The benefit here is that I don’t have to remember if I’ve paid the bill or not.

So with a few simple techniques I’ve got a pretty good idea of where my money is going and what the remaining balances on things are. That doesn’t mean that I’m saving enough or that I’m paying my debt down any faster. What it does allow me to do is to not get into debt further or by accident when life gets a bit busy.

One thought on “Keeping on top of Finances when you’re Busy”

  1. I used to either manually pay bills from my bank online or have them automatically deducted, but once or twice there was a timing issue with payroll deposited a check late, or the bank having a system issue. Now I have all my regular monthly bills (phone, cell, internet, insurance, alarm monitoring, etc) charging to my VISA. I can’t miss a due date because they take the money themselves, and I only have to pay the VISA bill. In addition now I’m earning flight mileage on my card just for paying my regular bills. Every Friday I pay off everything that has been processed on the card. Weekly gas and groceries purchases plus any monthly bills that came through. We just returned from vacation and several bills payments when through while we were gone. Nothing is ever paid late and one payment clears everything. Once I’ve cleared the card on Friday and the paycheck(s) are deposited I assess how much excess is in the account and transfer it out to either our retirement accounts or make an extra mortgage payment. I have a spreadsheet with all our known, essential, planned spending and income laid out for the next year. Generally we stick to the plan. I can easily see how much needs to be in the account to cover what’s coming next week or next month, but everything over $1000 that’s not needed for planned spending gets removed every week. The $1000 is our easily accessible emergency fund, and also means we don’t incur any monthly bank fees. I tried having automatic deductions done, but found that by picking an amount I knew we could always manage, I was not doing the maximum we could do many weeks, so I’d be back online doing an additional transfer. Eventually I stopped the automatic transfers and just do a manual one every Friday after reviewing the accounts and the anticipated spending for the next few weeks. I guess after a while I didn’t have a problem letting cash pile up if there was a large expense coming in a few weeks – I don’t seem to be tempted to spend just because it’s there. A lot of people do set up automated transfers and that seems to work for them to ensure they do at least a minimum amount. As long as you have a plan to get where you want to be, it’s all good.

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