My parents taught me a lot about financial responsibility. By the time I was in my teens, I knew how to balance a checkbook, open a bank account, and I was putting 10% of my allowance and odd jobs money into savings. I understood that I had to spend less than I earned, save as much as possible and make sure that my credit stayed as close to perfect as I could keep it.
As an adult, I still know what I need to do but actually doing those things is proving harder than I had anticipated. Still, my stubbornness told me: “you know what to do; you can manage all of this yourself!”
For years I tracked my income, spending and savings in an excel spreadsheet. I was still following the basic rules of personal finance but inevitably, in spite of my better efforts, a couple of things kept happening every month: I’d forget to pay at least one bill (the number of times my cell phone has been shut off because I forgot the bill would astound you) and I’d have to do some creative book keeping to figure out how to make ends meet during that last week.
It was time to admit that, while I was pretty good at keeping myself in line with the big stuff (saving, not spending more than I earned, etc.), I was not as good with details as I wanted to be. As much as it curdled my stubborn stomach, I needed to find some help.
Setting Up Bill Pay
Tired of having to pay reinstatement fees after my cell phone got shut off again, I decided it was time to find a good online bill pay service to take care of all of that stuff for me.
I’ll admit—that was a big chunk of control that was hard for me to give over to any service. It also took me a while to find a service that did everything I wanted it to. Here’s the thing most bill pay services won’t tell you: a lot of them charge fees for each bill that you pay through their service instead of simply paying yourself. My bank certainly did. My credit card company did. I finally decided to use an online bill pay tool.
I like using one of these tools because it doesn’t schedule everything automatically all the time. I still have to schedule the payments manually. What I did was shift the due dates for all of my bills to the fifteenth of the month (or the nearest Monday to the 15th). Then I set up a monthly alarm for the 10th. On the 10th, I log in to the app, pay my bills with a few button pushes and viola! Done. Because all of my bills stay listed in the app, I can’t forget about one of them.
Sticking to My Budget
I’ll admit: it wasn’t the amount that I was spending that was the problem. It was where I was spending it. So, for three months I employed the Ramsey Envelope Method while meticulously tracking every blasted penny I spent (that was no fun). Then, after that three months was up, I figured out a few ways to save some money (like Redboxing instead of renting through Amazon) and redistributed my budget correctly.
I still use the Envelope Method (I use the digital version) because it’s proven the easiest for actually sticking to what I had planned.
These two things might seem small to you but they’ve made a huge difference for me. For one thing I’m not spending $50 every other month to get my phone turned back on!
What are two things you could start doing right now to be financially healthier?