Financial Wellness: Finding a System that Works for You

A few years ago I wrote that I wanted to get my credit cards paid off and to do that I was going to track my expenses through Excel spreadsheets. I was able to keep up with that for a few months, until I got my credit cards paid off, and then I started utilizing my spreadsheet less and less. Mostly because I rarely open my computer when I’m at home. I sort of try to avoid using my computer seeing as I am in front of a computer day in and day out at work and my phone meets all my other needs. So my budgeting took a back burner. Then E and I moved in together and my expenses were cut down in half and I stopped being as vigilant with my budgeting. But because of that, I’ve lost sight of my goals (I planned on trying to get around $10k of my student loans paid off in this year when my expenses were so low) and haven’t made progress on them.

I’m trying something new this year – in my planner, I’m tracking what I’m spending every week and then adding it up on Sunday. I then put my total that I spent that week on my monthly calendar in my planner. I won’t be able to make up lost ground with my student loans but I’m hopefully that I can still make a bit more of a dent in my loans. It’s important to remember that it about making progress and not about being perfect. With your finances, your fitness, your work, and your life.

Financial Wellness: Ok, Ok, I’m Obsessed.

With LearnVest, that is. I am just really enjoying their finance articles. The article I’m sharing today walks your through one year of breaking bad money habits, starting in February. These are all taken from the LearnVest article. I love this article because it doesn’t preach to stop doing something, but in terms of say buying lunch, do it every once in awhile, not every day. I’ll summarize my favorites. them but check out the link if you want more detailed info.

February:  Buying coffee, snacks, and lunch instead of bringing your own. Your grocery bill might increase a bit, but it won’t hold a candle to what your monthly budget looks like when you consistently buy these items.

April:  Not prioritizing high-interest debt. Again, just get rid of it. 

June:  Carrying a credit card balance. If you can’t pay off your credit card at the end of the month, THEN YOU DON’T NEED WHATEVER YOU ARE BUYING!

October: Don’t set and forget your savings, constantly be trying to add more and more to that account. 

December:  Buying holiday gifts last minute. My sister is awesome with this. She starts thinking very early on about what she wants to get for people and starts shopping deals in July/August. We have been Black Friday shopping enough too that she knows when she can get good deals on stuff. She also is an ace at using her credit card reward points and using them to her advantage. 

January:  Gift cards. Ug. I honestly despise getting gift cards because I either forget that I have them and never use them or feel too much pressure of what to buy or buy stuff just to buy stuff because I have gift cards. If you are thinking about getting someone a gift card, just get them cash instead unless you know for a fact that they are going to use the gift card. And be conscientious of the gift cards too. Buying those Visa ones that charge you $5 to activate or something…just give the person cash and save yourself some cash.

What are some of your bad money habits that you hope to break? My big one this year will be carrying a balance on my credit card as I keep chipping away at paying them off. Getting closer every pay period.


Financial Wellness: A Glimpse at my Attempt to Budget

One of my major goals for this year (and life in general) is to get better with managing my money and one of the best ways to do that is to set a budget (and stick to it). When I was growing up my mom always used a software to track her money. I decided to use a version of that but instead of using the software, just using an excel workbook and utilizing separate sheets within the workbook. 
So I have set up my 2014 Workbook 
And then within these sheets, I have a section to track my income including what day I get paid
And then I track my expenses including what date they were paid/scheduled for payment 
And then I will track how much I spend on groceries and any other purchases that I make. 
So this is a look into my budget. My overall main goal for 2014, specifically with finances, is to pay off my credit cards. As you can see, I have 3 that I opened up during college thinking that I would get them paid off when I got a real job. This past year, I was making equal payments on each of them and that reallllly didn’t do anything. And after talking to some people who know finances better than me, I will concentrate on paying one card completely off and just making minimum payments on the others. And pay them off one by one and get rid of this stupid debt. I’d like to end 2014 with only have my student loans as my debt. 

Financial Wellness: Are You Really Saving Money?

Yesterday I attempted to pay some bills online. I prefer to pay my bills online because I can save on buying stamps and envelopes (if they don’t provide you one) and I can use paperless billing as well. I just keep my online bills in my inbox until I have paid them and then put them in my paid folder after I have paid them. I have a pretty good process that just makes it easy to do. Except yesterday, I discovered that one of the places was actually CHARGING me processing fees for paying my bills online vs. mailing them in. One place actually charges me $3.00/transaction to pay my bill online. Which means I have been spending $36 more a year on bills than I actually need to be. Now this may not seem like a HUGE deal, but when you are on a tighter budget like I am, $36=a week of groceries (almost).

The point of this post? Even though a company might say you are “saving time, money and paper” by switching to paperless billing, you might actually be SPENDING more money to pay online.

Wellness Check-In: Revisiting September Goals and Setting October Goals

  • Budget. Budget. Budget. Seriously. Budget my little budget off. …still need to work on this and keep it a priority to work on. 
  • Swimming. I really need to be working on my swimming and with the pool that I use being open for more hours and more days, I think it will help just being in the pool more and working on stuff. So I’m going to carry over my August goal of getting comfortable swimming 100s and utilizing flip turns. I am going to do a more detailed post on swimming tomorrow, but I am working on this as well. 
  • Stick to my workout schedule. I respond so well to schedules and having a good workout schedule is helping me out great! But I want to see myself making more gains-lifting, running, and swimming. 
  • Blogging. I feel like August was so hectic that my blog really started to slack so I want to make sure that I keep up the integrity of my blog. Especially since I am going to be in Kentucky for a week, I want to make sure that I have posts ready to go on at least travel days-I learned my lesson the hard way when I was travelling to Colorado. I feel like I did a much better job of this. I planned well for when I was traveling and made sure I had content ready to go. Even though it is time consuming, I want to keep up the integrity of my blog, especially as I am trying to get my blog name out there more and more. There have been a few posts when I was like…really Vanessa? 
  • Emotional/Mental wellness. I need to take more time to make sure this is in check. I struggled with this a lot during August. I let stress (both personal stress and work stress) take over my mental wellbeing. We hear this all the time, there cannot be happiness without sadness…it is completely true, for me. After my rough couple of weeks, I was having just a normal day, but nothing bad happened. I was with das boy and I just turned to him and said, “today is a great day.” 

September Goals/don’t judge me if I carry some of August’s goals over

  • Hey Vanessa, BUDGET! BUDGET! AND BUDGET SOME MORE! Get your spreadsheets out and get going!
  • Stick to the fitness schedule and write up a workout to do on the days when I am working out solo and then actually stick to it-regardless of how many guys are in the weight room.
  • Swim a mile.
  • Stay focused on my volunteer work and research with the leadership project.

I’m going to keep October nice, sweet, and simple. Just 4 goals-realistic yet challenging.

What are some of the things you want to accomplish in October?

Also, TODAY is the last day to enter my giveaway! So far my sister is the only one that has entered! So in the comments below, be sure to let me know what wellness means to YOU! I will pick a winner tomorrow and set up sending the Wellbeing book with a unique code so YOU can take the the finder and determine where you are at the wellbeing scales!

Financial Wellness: Budget Your Little Budget Off!

Since I was little, my mom has always told me that I need to be better with my money. I would then run to the Dollar Store and spend my entire allowance on getting candy or other things that I just HAD to have. And then I would be “dying” and impatiently waiting for getting my next allowance. When I was 14 and I got a job, my mom would tell me to make sure that I was putting money away in my savings account. I would put it in my savings account and then promptly take it out to buy more “necessities” that I was convinced I needed. I have spoke about my woes with student loans in a previous post and part of my woes with that is that again, I convinced myself that I needed certain things. It wasn’t really until I got to grad school and even then until my second year of grad school that I started to get a glimpse of how important it is to budget and to spend wisely.

In my September Goals, I mentioned that I really want to give budgeting another shot. I’m not very good at it, but basically…this is what I try to do.

  • I low ball my monthly income
  • I add up all my monthly expenses that I know are always the same (rent, student loan payments, credit card payments – DON’T fall into this trap and remind me to write a post on this sometime!, cell phone bill) and then guess for my other bills that are changing (utilities, water, gas).
  • I then figure out how much money I have left other. I think about a realistic amount of money that I need to have set aside for groceries. I think through the month and think about how much food and what kind of food I will be needing.
  • Now here is where I am horrible, I then put the remaining money in a separate savings account which is also linked up to my checking account…which means that it is really, really easy to transfer money over…

We often hear that “you don’t need money to be happy” and to an extent, that is true. You don’t need money to be happy…beyond meeting your needs and being comfortable. Having financial instability is a major stressor in people’s lives. Budgeting, while annoying and, as my financial guru of knowledge points out, isn’t easy and takes some trial and error to figure out, can be very beneficial to your financial wellbeing as well as your overall wellbeing.

Do you budget? Why or why not? Any tips and tricks?

Financial Wellness: A Rant about Student Loans and What I Wish I Would Have Known.

I woke up this morning to see that my student loans that were being managed through the government were now transferred to Sallie Mae, an organization notorious for not letting students pay more than their minimum balance on their loans to get out of being in debt for 30+ years and not having to pay as much interest. Not that it mattered, I can only afford to pay the minimum and my whole big master plan of getting my masters degree and getting a job that paid 60k a year and just living like a college student for a couple years while I buckled down and just paid off my student loans was really working out anyway.

But it got me to thinking, we tell high school students to get involved to make their college application more diverse. We tell them to get good grades and high scores on the SAT/ACT to better their chances of getting in. We tell them to apply for scholarships.

But, I feel that we lack in educating students about student loans. According to this 2012 New York Times article, “about 2/3rds of college students borrow money” (2007-2008 grads) versus grads from 1992-1993 (45%). Combined, there is over $1 trillion outstanding from student loans.

What can we do to remedy this seeing as the cost of going to school isn’t going down? Educate the students in high school. Give them the knowledge that they need to figure out what it means to take a loan and what the ramifications are of taking out a loan. And I’m not talking some bullshit hour long meeting or online “class” that they go through. I’m talking a mandatory “if-you-have-even-the-slightest-twinkling-of-going-to-college” you take this semester long course in loans. That walks you through the entire process and how you evaluate YOUR finances to determine what YOUR need is. How you read this legal jargon on the loan papers. How to budget in college. How to get a part-time job. Etc.

Sure, taking classes like Economics and Calculus are great, but throw in one real-world experience class and make it be about managing your own finances. Make it explain about loans. I wish someone would have explained to me more about loans. I didn’t understand them as a high school senior. I didn’t understand how signing this piece of paper was going to affect the next 30+ years of my life. I just knew I needed to go to college and that it was a lot of money.

Now, I know what you are thinking (I don’t, I’m just pretending), if you are going to be an adult and take out loans, you should (cringe) know what you are signing before you sign it. Agreed. It absolutely was my responsibility (and everyone else’s that signed loans) to know what the heck we were getting ourselves into. I absolutely should have done more research and applied for more scholarships and managed my money better and not been so caught up in living a college lifestyle. I recognize the mistakes I made along the way. But I still think that every high school student that is thinking about going to college…Student Loans 101. Semester long course. Show ’em exactly what they are getting themselves into.

Financial Wellness: A Quick Tip

Ah, financial wellness. Probably my…worst dimension of wellness and hardest to keep in check…even though it is actually one of the easiest to keep in check.

This week I have been testing a theory. For the past couple of weeks as I have been diligently plugging along w/ work, I have found myself wandering upstairs to the food area and grabbing a snack. Just to put it in perspective, the lady that works in the coffee shop knows that I am getting grapes and cheese every time. She actually let me cut in front of people because she knew what I was getting and that it was going to be fast and easy. Yup.  You know your snack runs are getting bad when the people not only recognize you, but know exactly what you want.

So what I have been experimenting with this week? Leaving my debit card and cash at home. Getting rid of the temptation and removing the ability to actually go and buy something. No money, no problems? I’m not sure that’s exactly how that saying/song goes…but so far it’s working. By not having my debit card/cash w/ me and removing the ability to spend, I’m no longer spending that … (cringe) $12-15 a week on just snacks.

Although it feels a bit frightening and scary to leave home sans money (a lot of what if scenarios tend to pop into my head) it has, obviously, helped me stop spending wastefully at work.

Now if only I would stick to the budget that I actually created for myself…