Those of us who produce Credit.com’s blog spend most of our week putting together the most helpful personal finance tips and information we can. Of course, then we go home and have our own personal finances to manage. We each have our own methods for staying on top of our budgets and credit — proof that multiple approaches can be similarly effective — and wanted to share some insight into how personal finance experts manage their money.
Mobile Banking Apps
Having mobile access to her bank account makes it easy to manage everyday purchases, said Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com’s director of consumer education. It allows her to check her balances and make sure she has the money she needs for everyday transactions, all while she’s on the go. This can be especially helpful for someone who is on a tight budget and needs to know exactly what funds are available at any given time.
Google Docs & Sheets
If you do an Internet search for budget templates, one of the results is a Google Sheet — a spreadsheet hosted through Google Drive that you can share and collaboratively edit with others. Editorial Director Kali Geldis has Google Docs and Sheets to keep track of her wedding-planning expenses over the past year, in addition to managing her finances with her fiance.
The cloud-based service puts a modern twist on the traditional spreadsheet budget by making it accessible from multiple devices — perfect for couples or any group managing a budget.
The cloud and smartphones are not necessary for a well-structured budget.
“I’m more of an analog person,” says Managing Editor Melissa Heltzel. She uses spreadsheets for budgeting, checks her credit and regularly looks at her account activity. It’s simple and effective.
Online Budgeting Apps
I like how I can look at the big picture my connecting my accounts to Mint. I still check my individual account activity, but Mint helps me see how all aspects of my family finances fit together, and it makes it a lot easier to spot problematic trends (lots of Starbucks runs, for example).
We all love this one, and if you haven’t used it, you should. It’s the only place to get your federally-mandated free annual credit reports from each of the big three credit reporting agencies. There’s no reason to not take advantage of this.
Pen & Paper
Editor-in-Chief Michael Schreiber likes the old-school approach.
“Write everything down. Everything you spend. EVERYTHING,” he says. “Then at the end of every day, tally it all up (and share it with your significant other, if you happen to have one). You’ll be surprised by how much it all adds up to at the end of the day, and even more surprised by all the stuff you’re willing to forgo now that you’re paying attention.”
The thing that makes this approach so great is that anyone can do it. You don’t need a smartphone, constant access to the Internet or even a bank account, quite frankly. It’s easy to retrace your digital footprint, so if you deal primarily with cash, pen and paper might help you stay on top of things.
Other Online Options
Editor Bev O’Shea says she visits the websites for her credit unions and other financial accounts religiously. Honestly, if you’re using spreadsheets, Mint, Google Docs or anything else, it’s really just an extension of your bank’s website, so if you tend to be forgetful of what you spent and where, just go straight to the source.
Being a bunch of personal finance nerds who love free things, we of course all check our free credit report summaries each month on Credit.com — seriously, it’s an easy way to stay on top of your credit between free annual credit reports. Have we mentioned we like free things? Who doesn’t love freebies?
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