Today I crossed something off my list that is the start of a much bigger resolution. Today I finished getting "My Portfolio" set up on my Bank of America online banking site. I've decided to give this a try since it's free, instead of purchasing Quicken (which was my original plan). If you are a Bank of America customer and you have online banking set up then you can take advantage of this money management tool. (http://www.bankofamerica.com/onlinebanking/index.cfm?template=my_portfolio)
Today I finished up entering in all of my account information for credit cards, mortgages, auto loans & student loans. My Portfolio will track all of our spending and categorize everything for any time period that I specify. It will also show when each loan payment is due and the minimum due as well as the loan balance. It automatically calculates net worth and tracks any increases or decreases. The only accounts it's not picking up for some reason right now are our 401k's. I might have to call customer service for help on that. Anyway, I loaded in my monthly budget and set up the categories of spending I want to track. It will show me pie charts and graphs of where our money is being spent each month.
Gaining better control over our financial situation is something that I have needed to do for a LONG time. My husband and I don't manage money poorly, but we aren't great either. I think the majority of the problem is that we have a lot of monthly obligations because we have 2 rental properties (that we manage ourselves) and it becomes a lot to keep up with. I have had a budget made up in an excel spreadsheet for a while, and although it looks good on paper, that's pretty much all it has been since I created it. It seemed good in theory, but we definitely weren't sticking to it. We have some debt that needs to be paid off and we are in desperate need of creating an emergency fund.
It's a very stressful feeling to feel like you don't have good control over where you money is being spent. Especially when you know that you could be being a LOT smarter with it! We just purchased a new home in June and moved in in July. It is a brand new home in the first phase of a new neighborhood. We took the approach of buying the largest house we could afford in the nicest neighborhood that we could afford so that we wouldn't out grow it and need to move in a few years. So far, it has been great, but I totally underestimated the cost involved in furnishing the extra space. Some days it's hard because I really want everything to be done RIGHT NOW and that just isn't financially possible. We are working on things one room at a time (sometimes one closet at a time!) and we are definitely making progress.
Sometimes I find it funny that it stresses me out that everything isn't done yet because this is surely the nicest place we have ever lived! We bought our first house only 2 months after we got married and I think that most of our friends and family thought we were CRAZY! In fact, I distinctly remember my father saying the words "you are crazy!"... several times... although I'm sure it was with concern that we were in over our heads with the work that needed to be done. The movie "The Money Pit" was mentioned quite frequently! Anyway, it was a two story, four square house built in 1920 and the inside was HIDEOUS! It also did not have central heating or air. We felt like we were getting a great deal and it was exactly what we were looking for. Suffice it to say we had a vision of what that house could be. We lived that whole first year with things barely unpacked, in a total construction zone working on projects ourselves as we had the money to do so. This was all also done without central heating. We used space heaters only and often times slept with hats on. (This is when having 3 dogs in the bed comes in handy! ha ha!) I remember one morning I got up and went downstairs and picked up a fast food soft drink cup that my husband had gotten the night before and it STILL had ice in it! Yes, our house was that cold. We really were crazy! But it wasn't that bad. We had fun working on the house and it definitely gave us a sense of pride and accomplishment. So I don't know why I complain sometimes about this house not being all the way furnished! We live in a super energy efficient house now... and more importantly... it has HEAT! Nothing to complain about here!
Long story short, we did get that house renovated eventually and it's currently one of our rental houses. Turns out it is better for us financially as a rental because it's 2 blocks from a major university. My husband and I have never really taken the conventional route to do anything in our lives. Most of our friends and family just accept now that we are the couple that makes crazy decisions, takes risks that they probably wouldn't and that they should never write our address anywhere in ink! That's what makes it all the more humorous to me that we now live in a brand new house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. It just feels SO not us. But I guess priorities change when you start a family... and I wouldn't change that for anything in the world!