Any money problems I’ve ever had have been first world problems. I’ve always had a safe roof over my head, food to eat, functional plumbing, and little risk I’d ever not have those things. Everything north of that is a blessing.
When the Boss and I first got together and for many many years afterward we didn’t manage our money well. When we were young we lived well, but check to check. When we got older, we carried a lot of debt. We always managed to find a way to get ourselves out of trouble and back to break even. Some years we even had a little money in the bank. But it was never intentional or under control. Honestly, we were pretty lucky.
I don’t remember when or why, but at some point we got scared or smart or something – and decided to try being responsible with our money. We knew it would be very hard.
We love to shop. It makes us happy. Not empty, grasping, compensating happy. For real happy. We generally enjoy the hell out of the things we buy and spend on, with few regrets. Conversely when we’re on a budget, it makes us kinda sad. There’s always a thin layer of stress that never leaves us. Life is less spontaneous. When you’ve been lucky enough to do what you want when you want, it sucks when you can’t.
We also suck at saving. To do it right requires spending less than you make, settling your debts, having the discipline to put your remaining loot in a safe place, and leaving it alone. To say that doesn’t come easy for us is a massive understatement.
Before going further, let me just say that I’m not a fan of the web or apps. I’ve made a living building and managing such things since the dawn of the Internet, and I know too much. I know how to “do it right” and rarely is it done right. Using the Internet is a chore. My time and patience for using it is very limited. I don’t endorse any web site or app.
Mint.com changed our life. In less than 6 months, we were completely out of debt. We didn’t get back into debt. Within a year we had saved up a rainy day fund that would have floated us for 6 months if one of us lost our jobs. In doing this, we stopped paying what can only be described as an idiotic amount of finance charges and interest on our debt.
It’s really simple. It connects into all your bank account and credit cards. It tracks every single dollar you spend (very accurately with little effort on your part). It very easily allows you to set a budget for all your categories of spending. It very easily allows you to track how you’re trending to your budget. And it’s free.
With this, you live within your means. You set your budget below your income, and you have money left over to pay off debt or save money. Once you get above water, it’s easier to stay above water.
If I could go back in time and do things differently, the concept of responsible budgeting would be in my top 10. Check it out. It might change your life.