Put Your Money IN The Bank

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met or heard about who, for whatever reason, don’t have an account at a financial institution. They take their paycheck every week or two, get it cashed and head on their merry way.

Of course it’s no wonder they’re probably living paycheck to paycheck.

I’m not trying to dog on anyone. And to most it seems like common sense. But if you don’t have a bank (or credit union) account you need to go out tomorrow and GET ONE. And put your money in it. And keep it there. 😉 It’s much safer there than in your house anyway. Every financial institution is backed by the FDIC or NCUA for up to $250,000. This means that if for whatever reason the institution that has all your money goes under, you will still get all your money back up to a quarter of a million dollars.

But that is truly besides the point because the people who don’t have accounts at a financial institution are, more than likely, not the ones saving up wads of it in their home somewhere. They are the people who spend all their money and sit around miserable until the next paycheck comes (if the next one comes!)

If you’re just getting out on your own or are finally starting to make some kind of income (even an allowance!) search out the best financial institution in your area and open up at least a basic savings account and a checking account. Savings can be for your growing emergency fund and your checking account, well, it’s to live out of. Get a debit card and then just watch your spending (make sure to sign up for access to your accounts through your institution’s website so you can view balances and such 24/7.)

I’m not sure why some people are opposed to keeping their money at a financial institution. Do you have any ideas?

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Awareness Saves Money: Electric Style

The more aware we are of our spending the more we may be able to save money.

I have yet to perfect the art of tracking all my spending (honestly, I think I’m just still too lazy–feel free to give me a good kick) but I have found the perfect tool to track my spending on my electric bill.

It’s a website (and also an app for certain phones) called My Usage. Not all electric companies support this tool but for those who do, it’s perfect. Just go to http://www.myusage.com and click “Sign Up Now.” It will offer you a few steps to see if your particular company is supported. If it is, you can sign up and be able to view a graph of how much electricity you are using every single day.

My graph currently looks like this:

The usage is measured in temperatures and the red graph represents the average in “my area” (not sure what the area is exactly.)

I have this app on my HTC Hero with google phone (android powered) and check it every morning. I live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with only 1 other person so my usage may be lower than some (it is also quite perfect right now outside so now air or heat is being used) but I definitely notice a difference on days I do laundry and use the dryer.

This app has just made me a lot more aware of how much electricity I am really using and how much it’s costing me. Turning off lights and keeping the usage down to a minimum whenever possible is now a thought that actually crosses my mind whereas if I didn’t have this app I probably wouldn’t really think about  it.

Basically, it just helps me stay aware. And awareness is powerful. Because it promotes action–even more powerful!

March Spending

So here it is short and sweet. I like to budget but a budget is just a plan of what you’re going to do with your money. An important part of keeping track of your finances is to review at the end of the budget period (for me it’s a month) and see where all your money went.

When you create a budget, break it down into a few major categories. If you’d like to have sub-categories that is fine but the categories should be very general. Mine are:

1. Savings (this includes emergency fund savings, vacation savings, school savings, etc.)
2. Debts (this includes what I put on my Visa card that month and paid off in full, student loans, etc.)
3. Transportation (includes gas, oil, auto insurance, auto repairs, etc.)
4. Housing (includes things I buy for my house, rent, all utilities renter’s insurance, etc.)
5. Life (includes everything else: food, entertainment, phone bill, cable bill, etc.)

So this month (my ‘budget months’ run from the middle of a month to the middle of the next) I tracked my spending through my online banking website and broke it down into categories. Here is the breakdown (as seen on the graph) of how I spent my money:

Savings 21.47%
Debts 9.07%
Transportation 16.96%
Housing 15.06%
Life 37.44%
There are definitely a few items when I went and looked back I should not have spent my money on. Most of it was some unneeded eating out that I am going to purposefully cut back on this next month.
Ultimately, at the rate of income I’m currently at, I’d like this to be the breakdown…
Savings %27
Debts 0%
Transportation 15%
Housing 25%
Life 33%
Since I’m moving soon my expenses are a little strange so this next month more will be under Housing than Life so I can get settled well.

Do you or have you ever tracked your spending? Do you find yourself consistently meeting your goals? How do you stay on track?