An important part of keeping life as stress free as possible is constantly doing little bits of preventative maintenance in different areas of our everyday lives. If we are able to do these small things we are able to keep little problems little…take care of mole hills so you don’t have mountains to deal with. In this series “Mole Hills, Not Mountains,” I will talk about things I do (or should do) in order to keep common problems small before they grow into big issues. It can be a daunting subject, but one thing it is important for a Renaissance Human to have a basic understanding of is their finances. The first step in keeping this broad subject a mole hill and not a mountain is keeping track of your money.
I want to start off by saying a couple things:
- I am, by no means, a financial expert. I wouldn’t even qualify myself as a financial amateur. I am a mid-twenties college graduate who was lucky enough to have parents who have given sound financial advice, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way, as well.
- This post is about tracking your money, not about investing, (serious) budgeting, or any other major financial topics which you would be much better suited talking to someone who works in the financial industry.
Now that I have given my caveats, let’s talk about some good ways to keep your money a mole hill instead of a mountain. I want to start that by painting a little picture for you. Every Sunday morning I start my day by making a pot of coffee. Of course, this is how I start most mornings, but on Sundays I am able to take my time and start slowly. Once I have my coffee I sit down at my computer and pull up my bank accounts*. I take my time looking through my recent activity from my accounts, and cards. If something looks suspect, I make a note to call the institution on Monday, or drop them a message on their customer service website that day.
The simple practice of sitting down and looking at my accounts every Sunday keeps me cognizant of where my money is and how I’m using it. Online banking makes it easier than ever to move your money around if you need to for the coming week, or if you have bills which are due. The one other thing I do is, whenever possible, I set up my bills to be paid directly from my checking account, and set up reminders about when those bills are due. If I am unsure whether I have enough money in the correct account, it takes almost no time at all to transfer the necessary funds.
Since I bank with more than one institution, sometimes I find it hard to keep a good picture in my mind of what my overall financial picture is. Recently I have started using Mint to give me a better idea of everything I have. Mint has excellent tools which allow you to budget, plan, find new ways of saving, and set goals for yourself. I am in the early stages of using Mint, but, so far, it seems to be a helpful tool to keep track of my money.
Well, there you have it! My big tip for keeping your basic money management a mole hill, and not a mountain: set aside time for yourself each week to take a look at your accounts, and get a sense of what you will need for the coming week. I believe that a good cup of coffee makes money management much less of a chore!
*Here I will make one quick financial suggestion: if you can, keep your money with a credit union instead of a bank. Credit unions tend to have better interest rates, no account fees, and other services available for things like mortgages, car loans, etc.