Confessions of a Financial Putz

I save more than I earn and that’s currently the extent to which I manage my finances.  No investments, no 401(k), no monthly spending review.  

If I were going to go toe-to-toe with Ronda Rousey she’d cry out for all to hear that I’m the financial equivalent of a do-nothing bitch.  

I try to shake it off by countering with something quick and witty, unfortunately there’s nothing that hits like the truth.

She smiles and throws another haymaker:

“You’ve been paying for Pandora for over two years and didn’t even know it.” 

I feel the walls closing in, my palms are sweaty, knees are weak, and I can already taste mom’s spaghetti.  No one can help me now, the onslaught continues:

“For 5 dollars more a month you could have accessed a Spotify library 30x bigger and had the option to pick what songs you wanted to listen to.”

“How’d that new Travis Barker produced MGK album sound?”

I can barely stay on my feet as I stagger around trying to stay upright.  The roar of the crowd starts to fade away.

“You’ve been eating grocery store sushi for 5x the price of chicken quarters when they don’t taste nearly as good knowing damn well you’ll be hungry again in a few hours.”

I fall to my knees.  My vision starts to get hazy.

“The savings on sushi and ice cream alone could cover the cost of a powerlifting coach.  Maybe then you would finally stop thinking about entering a powerlifting competition and actually do it.”

She takes a few steps closer and lowers her voice.

“But what would a soft-body bitch like you be without your ego-saving excuses?  You’re pathetic.”

She continues forward, only a few steps away now:

“Your traps are small and your thighs are comically overdeveloped for the rest of your body.”

I fall face down on the mat.  Not like this, not right now.

“Get up,” I whisper to myself “they’re just words.” 

She closes the final distance to my barely conscious body, kneels down, and whispers into my ear:

“Whole milk is garbage; skim milk has all the flavor and none of the fat.”

This fight was over before it started.  My vision gets blurry, the darkness starts creeping in, and “hello darkness my old friend” starts to play, right before everything goes blank.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Step One is Admitting there’s a Problem

It wasn’t always like this.  While I’ve never been super meticulous about tracking my spending, I did occasionally check a statement or two, once or twice a year to make sure everything looked alright.  During a brief period I even got super motivated and kept up a monthly spreadsheet.  

Next thing you know, in what feels like the blink of an eye, you log into your bank account to read through a monthly statement only to realize you’re still paying for Pandora.  After a moment’s reflection you realize you haven’t logged into Pandora in over two years!

And there it is, the familiar feeling of the chickens having come home to roost.  

Am I surprised or let down by this tomfoolery?  Absolutely not.  To be honest, I’m kind of excited.

A New Day, A New Opportunity

Why am I excited?  Because this time, unlike previous attempts, I’m coming with a much better set of tools.  Some of them have already been outlined in this blog, and more will be coming in future posts.

These skills have helped me stay on top of the major things I had previously been doing:

  • Work.
  • Lifting weights.
  • Making time for family and friends.
  • Reading .
  • Making bare minimum progress on my “to do” list.

On top of that they allowed me to expand that list of “major things” to:

  • Creating this blog.
  • Proactively organize 90% of what I own (admittedly not a lot, it’s about a one bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff (and that other 10% will be dealt with)).
  • Maintain a clean and organized apartment (something I’ve struggled with).
  • Make much, much better progress on the “to do” list.
  • Have a weekly review session on Saturday or Sunday to see how I did this past and plan out the upcoming week.

That may not seem like much, but to me it makes all the difference in the world.  Being able to take on more has only been possible because I learned better time management skills.  Now I’m proactive instead of reactive.

The Contestants

One of the tools I’m going to be adding into my arsenal is a personal finance app. I have no idea which personal finance app is the best so I’m going to test a bunch and report back.  I’ll try to use them all for at least 3 – 6 months before making a decision. 

But first, two quick notes:

  1. You may notice one of the most popular names, YNAB (You Need A Budget), isn’t on this list.  I’ve used YNAB and after a couple months I switched to a spreadsheet.  The company itself is incredible (the support, the refund policy, the community, everything about them is awesome), but I prefer tracking to budgeting.  With that being said, if someone asked me to recommend an app for budgeting, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them based on my experience and their great reputation (with the caveat that’s it the only budgeting app I’ve ever used).
  2. The majority of the reviews I’ve read about Quicken don’t inspire a ton of confidence. It seems to be bloated and expensive so I’ve decided to skip it.

Here are the contestants:

  • Personal Capital – It’s free and tons of people use and recommend it.
  • Mint – It’s free and tons of people use it.
  • Tiller Money- It looks awesome, it automates a lot of the manual stuff, and it uses Google Sheets or Excel.
  • Google  Sheets – It’s free and because Google Sheets.
  • CountAbout – It’s very affordable and was built specifically to be a Quicken alternative (you can even import information from Quicken or Mint).
  • Dollarbird – It has a free basic account and it has collaborative options.
  • NerdWallet – It has a cool looking interface, it’s free, and it seems pretty comprehensive.

Better Habits for a Better Life

The same criteria will apply to whichever app I end up picking that applies to everything else we’re doing here: There needs to be, at minimum, a 10x return on the time and effort invested into the system.

That being said, if the blogosphere, reddit, and intuition can be trusted, then tracking your spending habits is about one of the safest bets to be made on the path to building a better life.

See y’all next Monday,

P.S.:  Sorry for not posting last week, unfortunately when it rains it pours.

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