It’s the first month of the year. For me, bookkeeper by day, blogger by night (yes, it’s incredibly glamorous, thank you for asking), this time of year is incredibly busy for me. There’s extra paperwork, W-2’s to file, my own 1040 to file, and the excitement of my tax refund! This year, The Hubs and I will be putting our entire refund into savings, despite a modicum of pouting on his part.
We’re still not clean out of debt: Hubs lost his job in early 2008, and it wound up being the perfect opportunity for him to move to the States from Canada so we could get married. In case you aren’t aware, the legal process of immigration does not allow an immigrant to work legally until they are approved for and receive their green card. The legal process itself costs thousands of dollars and you have to live on only one income. We were married in September 2008, and two months later, just before Christmas, I was laid off. That was EIGHT YEARS AGO, and we’re still recovering from that financially. Even so, we’re still doing better than many, with only a few thousand dollars in credit card debt. The rest of our debt is “good debt”: student loans and a car payment. We’re even working on our savings as we pay off the credit card debt, hence the tax refund going right into savings.
So how do we keep up with it all? We stay aware of our finances. You’ve all seen my grocery budgeting posts and my frugal recipes. But how do I keep track of where my money’s going?
- I use Mint.com for budgeting, and I check it frequently. I make sure items are categorized properly and that I’m only overspending if it’s actually necessary. At the end of the year, I take a look a my actual spending for the previous year and see how I did. It also brings all of my financial transactions into one location, so I can check for discrepancies easily, rather than having to log into 7 or 8 different websites to check for transactions I didn’t make.
- I check my credit score quarterly at CreditKarma.com. Yes, like the commercial says, it’s FREE. Not only can you keep track of your credit score and get alerts if something affects it, but you can simulate what your credit score could be if you open a new line of credit or close your oldest credit card. The site gives you recommendations on how to improve your credit score, too. Tons of good information on how credit works!
- We deduct a certain amount every month to an online savings account. We use Ally.com, because for us it has the best return interest rate. We try not to touch this, although in the past we’ve had emergencies where we needed to dip into it, hence why we’re putting our tax refund into it! The interest rate is only 1%, but that’s better than our bank offers, and it’s harder for us to access, which means it stays safe unless we really, really need it.
Do you closely monitor your spending and finances? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments!