Of Money & Financial Matters

I guess maybe I should have made getting blog posts done a priority for the new year, eh? I’ve had a few very busy weeks, weekends, and some new routines I’m trying to establish, so blogging time still hasn’t found a permanent home in the new regime just yet. It’ll get there, eventually.

Obviously, since my finances are front and center in my mind this year, I’ve been trying to be a lot more disciplined in that regard. This particular pay cycle isn’t quite as fluid as I’d have liked, but that’s because I had to order new glasses, and my glasses are expensive (because I’m pretty much blind without them). Even more so this year, because I’m going back to “progressives” (or bi-focals, as they were called when I wore them in high school). People complain about them all the time, but honestly, I can’t wait to get them. I’m at the point where I can’t read close up things with my glasses on, but it has to be right in front of my face to read with my glasses off, so that perfect reading range is just out of my grasp either way you look at it.

Progressives will be a godsend, and I ordered them last Tuesday, so maybe one more week before they’re here. Can’t. Wait. I do have vision insurance now, which makes my glasses far more affordable. Very helpful.

Like so many other things, I like to do my budgeting late at night when it’s quiet and I can properly focus. The only problem with that is, my credit union (or rather the processing company behind the scenes) shuts down their web site every night from right around midnight until 2am. Anyone who works in technology knows that there’s no reason for a nightly shut-down, and plenty of banks are up and online round the clock, so this annoys me far more than it probably should. But it’s the way it is, and I need to remind myself to download a copy of my transactions before 11:30pm or so, so I can do that budgeting thing at my leisure.

Last year, I signed up for YNAB (You Need a Budget) software. It’s online budgeting software that basically is suppose to help you learn to “age” your money (ie, not spend it as fast, and create a cushion in your account). One of the main tenants of the system is to only budget with money you already have, and to budget every single dollar down to zero.

It didn’t work for me in the long run, because I can’t force myself to hold off on spending money right when I get it unless I know it’s already earmarked for something (before I get it). I was always trying to play catch-up with the budgeting and overspending when I really probably wouldn’t have if I’d just budgeted ahead and known that I needed to be more circumspect with my spending. That way when payday comes around, all those upcoming transactions are at the forefront of my brain and in my mind, the money is already spoken for. Or, as in the case of the coming paycheck, that I have money earmarked for a toaster oven, so I can hit the “checkout” button and get that ordered as soon as the money hits my account without worrying about trying to figure out which bill gets shorted to pay for that later.

I tried out a few other budgeting software packages, and the one I like best so far is called “Simple Home Budget“. It’s a desktop application, not a web app, which I actually prefer. You can set up recurring transactions, both income and expenses, and then you can easily see what you will have for the month, and what you need for bills. You can set recurring transactions to either “clear” automatically or manually – I set mine to manual, and there are categories for pretty much anything you want to track (and it’s easy to set up new categories too). It is indeed simple-looking, but there are some pretty complex details that make budgeting easier (like color coding, and you can import bank statements to balance, too).

I’m in the trial period now, but unlike most online software, it’s not a subscription to license this desktop app. YNAB is $89 every year, where Simple Home Budget is a one-time fee of $30. No brainer, cost-wise. And I like it better, too, so I’ll be buying a license and canceling YNAB at the end of the month. YNAB refunds the unused months if you cancel early, so the money from that will just about pay for the SHB license. Very nice.

Now I just need to make sure I have a copy of my bank statement downloaded before my normal Friday night budgeting time, and I’ll be set for this week.

Maybe I’ll actually get a budget set up for the BSB/book stuff this year too! Sure would be easier than tracking it all down in February so I can do our taxes… *ahem*

One thing at a time, right?