Life Together: Managing Money

Happy Money Smart Week, Hive! Money Smart Week is “a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances.” And while it definitely isn’t exactly wedding related, money is a huge issue in many marriages. So this week I’m taking a break from the wedding to talk about how money conversations will help get ready for marriage too.

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Money Smart Week

I’m definitely not a money expert, but I want to learn more since being financially healthy is so important for our future. A few years ago (pre-Shamrock) I decided I should make a budget. My inclination is always to save (never spend) so I don’t have trouble with money, but I also didn’t really know where my money was going. I also am SO disinclined to spend I won’t buy things I want because I feel bad spending money.

That said, it seemed like an awful lot of work to set up a spreadsheet and keep it updated, and I didn’t have any software already on my computer (Shamrock uses Quicken, but thats not free). My level of curiosity just wasn’t high enough to warrant a bunch of extra work. (I feel the same way about vitamins, flossing, and pointless exercise. I know they’re good, but I can’t quite work up the enthusiasm to do it.) And then I read about Mint.

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Mint.com

Mint allows you to input your account information* into their site, and it then aggregates everything for you. It was magical. I could see all my account balances, my transactions, set up a budget and view trends in my spending over time. It was also confusing in some of its details, which I’ll cover in a future post if anyone is interested. It’s definitely worked for me–I feel like I can buy new dining room chairs because I’ve saved up plenty of money in my “Furnishings” budget, or realize I am apparently buying a ridiculous amount of groceries.

Want to try it? In my experience Mint takes a little while to catch on to your real habits, so sign up now so that it can start getting more data on you. You’ll need online accounts set up for all your banks, and you’ll input those logons for mint to get read-only access. I’m generally not too skittish about security, but Mint uses bank-level encryption and I’ve never heard of a problem if it makes you feel better. So go try it! You want to have a couple months in there before doing too much with it; the records will make it easier to see your true patterns. And don’t wait based on some big event that you don’t want to “count” against you–you can always exclude something (but you better have a good reason!)

It was also really helpful to have an idea of my spending as Shamrock and I started to figure out how WE would do finances. Lucky for us, we’re on very similar pages when it comes to money, and having a record of what we typically spent made it easy to see what our joint budget should look like. (We’re the opposite of most people–we aren’t so hot at talking about feelings and emotional stuff, but we can discuss finances all day.) Of course, that still didn’t help us figure out how to manage the accounts we already had with the budget we set…but we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Do you have a budget? What system do you use?

*I know many people have security concerns about giving one company all of their information. Mint uses the same encryption all of the online banks use, so its as secure as they are. Basically, for me the convenience is worth the risk.

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