So, I've decided it's time to start getting more anal about my habits -- starting with money. I have *horrible* spending habits -- especially with impulse buying (e.g. when you go to purchase something at Fries Electronics, they bombard you with candy and misc thing). So, I decided I needed a method of tracking my money -- I would start with a technical item first, rather than habits, because without the means to *easily* record this information, I just wouldn't record it. Microsoft Money and Quicken flat out suck -- they visually impair you by throwing out WAY too much shit and over complicating things sometimes. A few years ago I purchased Microsoft Money: Basic -- and it was still a pain in the ass. To top it all off, they didn't offer a PDA version for Windows Mobile 5 (although I hear they offer one now -- which I'd like to research; I was able to get one working for a Dell Axim X51V but not my Cingular 8125). So, I decided to make one myself. Being that I'm not fond of writing a Windows app of this magnitude by myself (I have other hobbies I'd like to pursue at the moment) I decided I would use the next best thing -- Microsoft Excel. Ok, great idea. Ooooh, a PDA version of Excel comes with Windows Mobile 5 -- w00t. So my next goal was to decide what I wanted to keep track of.
Tab: Bills and Debt
I read somewhere on Digg about some minority getting money (mostly because they pulled the squeeky wheel crap -- which I *hate*; For those who don't know; The squeeky wheel gets the most greese, thusly those who bitch and complain the loudest get the most -- keyword being 'bitch') and they made the comment that this particular minority is horrible at saving money -- with the first rule being: If you can't recite your financial situation from memory (e.g. you are just going off the top of your head and ball parking things) then you are fucking up and don't expect to save. Hmm... while I don't fall into the minority he was talking about, I do fall into the financial issues he discussed. He made sense, so I should figure out what money goes to what on a monthly basis, how much credit I have available (and where), how much debt (and to whom), and what interest rate. That is tab number 1, we'll call it 'Bills and Debt'. I then made a list of *every* monthly payment I make. Credit Card(s), cell phone, internet, etc. I also noted the type of service, if it was adjustable (like Cingular and Internet). I then made a list of to whom I owed debts to (like my Capital One credit card), how much, and what interest rate. Debt tab was now complete.
Tab: %BANK NAME% Checking
I hate spending cash. Like my sister said, once you break a twenty -- the rest just disappears. Usually the logic of "it's just 4 bucks, it's just 5 bucks, it's just 50 cents) -- but they all add up to that $20 you spent. Cash in hand makes me feel like I have money to spend for some reason. Any more than $20 makes me feel unsafe carrying it around (at one point I was walking around with $400 in my wallet -- eek). I prefer to spend using my debit / check card. This makes it *really* easy to track as well. Simple stuff here. Date, to whom, amount, updated balance for checking account, updated balance for debt, notes (sometimes used for confirmation numbers). Items flow downwards, because inserting new rows at the time became very annoying. I wonder if I should make a macro for that... hmm... ah well, I'll worry about that later.Tab 'Amegy Banking' (Amegy is, of course, my bank) complete.
Tab: Monthly Bills
This tab will record what bills I've paid on what month. It will also repeat over and over, so I named it 'Bills-2007.01(Jan)'. In it I record the day a bill is due, name of company (the one I would write a check to if I had to write a check), it's use to me, expected monthly amount, how much I really paid, what day it was paid on, notes (might include check number or authorization number). This tab makes it easy for you to just open up and know if you need to pay anything *really* quick. I got this idea from my Uncle Greg.
Ok, now that I've wrote up all that I need to do to have this technically work, time to work on the habits. The first thing I need is see where useless monthly spending is going on. The only one I could find, that was reasonable, was my cell phone service. At one date I was dating some psycho person who was more of a habitual liar than psycho -- but I racked up the minutes, so I increased my plan. Time to drop that down. I also don't need internet on my phone, which was something I was considering getting but now changed my mind on. So I changed my plan from 900 minutes to 450 minutes. I decided to keep text messaging for a while longer, and I'll do the month in a few months to see if it's worth keeping. *sets date in PDA for reminder to do said event*.
One of the tougher parts to this is actually starting. Party because of changing your habits and recording everything and partly for trying to catch up for what you don't got. It's difficult knowing if you forgot something sometimes as transactions may take several weeks to complete depending on of the company has a bug up its ass or something. To my surprise, it only took about 4 days for me to catch up to 90%. Now that I was caught up (for the most part) and entering everything I bought, I found myself slowing down buying things and re-considering. Apparently when you have to sit down and enter this information, it makes you re-think if it was worth it and thusly next time you reconsider even harder.
Habit: Wanting something *now* / *faster*
So, I ordered a couple books off of Amazon.com (and one from Market Place, which is a third party type thing). I decided to do the 'shipping saver' which is basically free shipping but you wait a week and a day. I still twinge sometimes, because I want to spend the few extra bucks and get it here faster however this exercise wasn't about saving money as much as it was trying to slow down and be smarter. I don't *need* those books. I *want* them -- which translates into "it can wait if it saves money". For those that don't know me -- this is a HUGE step in slowing down.
This is about as far as I've gone now. I've only been doing this for a couple weeks so I'll keep posting on the things I learn.