Friday, August 24, 2012

Progress Updates

Earlier this week I created an account with mint.com. This has proven to be an incredible decision and if you don't already have one, you should create one. It's free and allows you to literally view all of your finances (bank accounts, retirement accounts, loans, etc.) in ONE place. How cool is that? It also pulls your historical financial data to make predictions and monthly budgets based on the way that you currently spend. Once the template is in place, you can fidget around with the categories and increase or decrease parts of your budget as you see fit. You can also categorize purchases that the site didn't know what to do with.

This whole experience has been super eye-opening for a number of reasons. I pride myself (probably more than I should) on knowing a thing or two about personal finance. This comes in part from my many family members who either work with money in some fashion (mostly accounting) or study finance as a personal hobby. Mostly, though, it comes from my experience in the finance industry when I first graduated college. I learned so much and thought myself quite fortunate to have that knowledge before beginning my first "real job" and moving out on my own. My confidence, I quickly learned, surpassed my actual knowledge of my own financial situation and my discipline in sticking to a plan. Seeing all of my expenses laid out before me, broken down categorically and graphically based on incoming versus outgoing money was sobering to say the least. Suffice it to say that since March, I have outspent my income by a pretty significant amount, which would no doubt explain how my almost fully paid off credit card is once again a source of stress and worry.

Now for the good news. Today, I played around with the Mint features and created a preliminary budget that I think I can stick to. After that, since I just got paid, I tithed online (which felt amazing!) and wrote two checks. One to my roommate for rent so that I don't dip into that money before it's due, and one to myself, which I proceeded to cash at the bank to be used as my allowance until my next pay check. I also made a payment on my credit card and wrapped a sticky note around my card that reads "Off Limits" :) - This is silly, but I'm a note person and honestly, what a great deterrent to pulling out my card in front of other people! After all of this, I am feeling SO relieved. Instead of complaining about needing more money, I am learning that your income is largely unrelated to your fiscal behavior and that poor decisions are poor decisions, regardless of whether or not they're made by a rich or poor person. It's not about needing more money (in most cases, not all). Really, it's more about taking control of the money you have and learning to live within your means.

It's so hard to believe how stressed I was about all of this last night before talking to C and before praying on it. I am so thankful that C has decided to help hold me accountable and I am also so thankful that the Lord makes good on His promise to provide. I'm not sure what I was so scared about. It's not like I've ever been in a situation of not knowing where my next meals are coming from. Or not knowing where I'll be sleeping. The only real sacrifices I'll be making are undoubtedly in the want category, and these are things that I should be minimizing regardless of money. Additionally, after I spoke with C, I began reading my Bible and I also opened up to a page my grandma had marked in a nightly devotional book she gave me that spoke directly to worry and the Lord's provisions! I had a little chat with God after that and honestly just started laughing. Here we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off, meanwhile He's sitting up there, calmly reigning over it all, probably tickled by how easily we forget this.

I'm just thankful He doesn't hold it against us :)

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