Today I’m doing a link up with “Chasing The Extraordinary” blog & getting in on this March No Spending Challenge.
I recently had a pretty scary financial crisis where there was more month & bills than what was coming in my paycheck. Let me tell you, that was a huge reality check that I needed to get my dolla dolla bills in order before I end up on the streets! I am so blessed to have a roof over my head, a few jobs that help pay the rent, food in the fridge, & a supporting family that helps me out when they can. But I confess that when I see that I have a few extra dollars left over once the bills are paid, that dollar starts looking a lot like a good few hundred & I start spending money like it’s my job. I mean, I’ve got a serious problem folks, & if I hadn’t have had that financial scare a few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure Dave Ramsey would have personally knocked on my door just to punch me in the face.
But in all seriousness, I was not being a good steward of what the Lord has lent to me. And that is something I had to place at the foot of the cross in repentance & ask for forgiveness. Financial struggles can be pretty dang scary and they are not to be taken lightly. So, in the wake of getting in financial shape, I wanted to share with you 4 tools that I am using to manage my finances, keep them organized, & keep me on track!
1. YNAB (You Need A Budget)
I was introduced to YNAB about 4 years ago when I met with a financial advisor for a free financial counseling session. Fresh out of college, I felt like such an adult for meeting with a “financial advisor.” Seeing that I had no idea about how to budget or handle money, he introduced me to a software called YNAB (acronym for You Need A Budget). This software has been one of the most consistent apps/software I’ve used since Facebook came out! I use it weekly.
Confession: In the past I have not used it as it was intended to be. I was pretty much using it as a false security blanket to convince myself that I had a budget & I knew where all my money was going when in reality I was paying no attention to it; just going through the motions. Now, I’m hard core giving every dollar a job. Checking my budget before I spend anything from it to make sure the money is even there. And really keeping track of my savings.
YNAB is a helpful budgeting tool especially for those (like me) who don’t have the attention span to sit down & do the math all on their own. Not only that but YNAB is actually a budgeting system that helps you get to a place where you can be living off of last month’s income. On their website you’ll find webinar after webinar on how to implement the YNAB system, how to use the software, and how to reach financial security using their system. I’m all for it. It’s pretty great!
Every Friday, I set aside time to hop onto my YNAB app to reconcile my bank statement for the week & give any dollar that needs a job, a job, and budget out any loose ends. This really helps keep me on track with where my money is going, where it needs to be going, & gives me a good map of my spending habits.
2. Chronicle (Bill App)
There used to be this app called “Bills on the Table” that I LOVED! But for some reason they discontinued the app & since then I have struggled finding an app that can help me keep up with all my bills and remind me when to pay them. The Chronicle app has come in a close second!
Chronicle is a simple bill manager that let’s you import all of your bills & reminds you to pay them when you need to pay them. I love it because it’s a universal app that I can use on my iPhone, iPad, & Macbook.
When I sit down to work on my budget each week, I pull up Chronicle to let me know what bills need to be paid in the next 7 days so that I can be sure that money has already been allotted in the budget.
My favorite part about Chronicle is that when I go to mark that I have paid a bill on time, the app gives me positive affirmations like “Way to go!” or “Great job!” It’s the little things that help you stay on track to financial fitness!
3. Automatic Payments
At first, I was a little hesitant about setting up my bills with automatic payments. I’m not clear on what my entire stand on that was but automatic payments made me feel uneasy. But once I was hit with that $130 late fee last month, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m all for automatic payments.
Let’s be honest! Life is going to get busy, and as important as they are, sometimes bills are not going to be at the forefront of your brain. You get busy with other stuff, and that’s understandable. But with automatic payments you can rest easy knowing that you will never have to deal with a late fee because the money is taking responsibility to go to the “bill payment center” by themselves. Now I say this assuming that the money is going to be there when the auto payment rolls through…if not, then honey we got a whole other situation to deal with!
Most of my bills are on automatic payment now because ain’t nobody got time for paying a late fee!!
I think this is the most important finance tool you need. You can have all the apps, software, webinars, books, etc. in the world, but if you don’t have the discipline to get yourself financially fit, they’re just no good! A few weeks ago I started reading The Total Money Makeover by: Dave Ramsey, and he told me to look at the “man (woman) in the mirror,” so I did. And man, I wanted to slap her for so many reasons, but mainly because it was her that got us in this financial mess.
But you can’t just will yourself into financial discipline. It’s totally & completely a process that takes a lot of prayer & focus on God to help you through it. Good ol’ Dave says “Personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.” And that behavior is all in how disciplined you are with your money.
So, taking on this month’s “No Spending Challenge” I am disciplining myself to only spend money on the necessary things (i.e. food, gas, bills, “personal” items) and putting the leftovers in savings. I’m pretty excited to see what I end up with.