Sunday, January 20, 2013

How I track my money

Many people track there funds several different ways. When I was younger, I used to use an excel spread sheet, however that became too cumbersome after having a couple of accounts and especially after having stocks where the number can magically go up or down without any funds actually going in or leaving.

Now, with the wonder of the internet, I primarily use  Mint is really a wonderful website, capable of tracking typical savings/checking accounts, credit cards, loans (student, car, and mortgage), investment accounts, and even retirement accounts! They also have a few really nice options as well. Because of the sheer quantity of people who use the website, they clearly have a vast amount of information. With that info, they are capable of comparing your information to the national and state averages (perhaps local as well, I think they've switched things up recently).

They also have a really wonderful way of setting goals and deciding how much you want to save and by when; they can predict dates, and how much you'll need to save by or in some cases, like retirement, how much money you'll need.  In my case, I'll need $5,374,523 to save for retirement. They got this number by my current age, retirement age, desired annual income (in today's dollar) for retirement and what type of investment style I have (assuming 3% inflation and that I'll live until I'm 95 years old).  

Or perhaps a better example of saving for a car fund; they give you a way of estimating how much money you'll need to save by either you entering it or typing in what type of car you want (new or used & estimating the sales tax). After that it'll tell you the sales tax amount, if there is a trade in you want to enter, and how much you'll need to save to have it by a certain date or how long it will take if you can only save a certain amount. Lastly, you'll link it to an account and they'll let you know if you're falling behind, jumping ahead, or just staying on track.  :-) 

Regarding the transactions, they do a great job of classifying how much I'm spending and where too. Only a handful of transactions ever get unclassified or miss-classified. From that, you'll be able to see what and how much you spend your money on.

The only downside to mint, in my opinion, is some of their 'suggestions' they offer.  Like the credit cards they recommend due to my spending habits, refinancing the house, etc. Many of them are not the best suggestions after digging into the deal and really seeing how it compares to what I have already, of course, that may be also because I'm not the typical person when it comes to money.

Overall, I really think mint is a wonderful site, perfect for keeping tabs on what you're spending by use of a budget and seeing if it's reasonable. Also, their blog is chalk full of great idea's, tips, and graphics. Definitely a must have for those who are in need of seeing what they have, trying to plan ahead, and get out of the rat race. Also, it's great for couples because you can really see what the big picture is and get both of you interested in what you have.  Side note, they also have iPhone/iPad/Android apps as well for those who are tech savvy.  And don't worry about security, you can't control any of your money or access your passwords in clear text from the website either, so if someone does manage to hack in, they'll only be able to see what accounts you have, but not actually control any of your money.  :-)   This is a perfect way for everyone to understand what's going on with their money for the New Year and maybe even make (money) New Year resolutions.

How do you keep track of your money?  What money New Year resolutions do you have?  For us, it's to open an (Roth) IRA (and max it out) and to really start paying down the student loans heavily. We know we wont be out of debt any time soon, but at least it is a start. Maybe in a year we can check back in and see how everyone really did?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Net Debt - Dec 2012

Student loans: -$82,122.92 (-$804.71)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$134,752.16  (+$641.70)
Total Debt: -$216,875.08

So we begin the new year with a bit under $217k debt. However, this year we have a plan! YAY for plans!

This year we have financial goals of paying off all of the accrued interest, around $4,300 worth, and continue to keep it off. Once that is done, we'll begin paying down the principle on the federal student loans which are the highest interest amount at 6%. In total, we'll be paying about $600/month to accomplish this, keep in mind, around $189 accrue every month.

Likewise, we also realize that we aren't getting any younger. So we made an adult decision and opened up our first Roth IRA account with scottrade. We are behind the power curve a big amount (even though we aren't even 30 yet), so we'll try to max out one IRA account per year ($5500) and hopefully work that up to maxing two accounts eventually. This also means specifically saving ~$460 per month which we can't spend until we retire.

This year we're also trying to increase our cash reserve incase of emergencies and also plan a visit to Germany and hopefully New York as there has been a family death recently and it would be good to see everyone at this years family reunion.

With the wife having a real job now, we are finally able to really do this and hopefully help our financial situation in the long run. We'll continue to try our best with our money, meaning not getting the newest and shiniest toys, i.e. ipad mini/e-readers/etc, but we'll use what we have (until they die) and make use of the simple pleasures in life.

We hope your financial situation is getting better as well dear readers. And if you have any financial goals, please feel free to share and follow up in a year to see how you're doing!  :-)