In a recent post I talked about getting organized for financial streamlining, and mentioned Mint.com as a tool for collection of data to then be put into a spreadsheet. But Mint has payment history, trends, budget, and goal setting. Why not just manage one’s finances entirely within Mint? Because I am old fashioned. Mint presents lots of information for you to look at, but I need to type things to really think about them.
Also, I like to see the history of goal progress, which Mint does not show you. If you are behind on a financial goal, it helps to see historical details to understand what is going wrong and how to fix it. My spreadsheet has historical records for almost every aspect of my finances, including student loan balances by month and each extra payment made to a loan or to savings.
An historical record can also be used in the opposite direction: planning. I have found it helpful to set financial goals like “pay this loan in 6 months” as long as the goal translates into a realistic monthly commitment. It also helps to make payments on set days of the month, such as 1st day of the month, or on paydays. Then you can map out the future payment dates over the next 6 months and really visualize the number of payments and period of time you have to achieve your goal. It also makes a visual commitment. And then you can go back and enter the payments made at each date. I have found that I am more motivated to do a certain thing on a certain date that has been written down, rather than quietly letting it slip. And checking in monthly or more to update data anchors the effort.
So while I use Mint as well, I like manipulating the data more actively in a spreadsheet. Or you may not want to use Mint at all if you are not interested in sharing your information with yet another website. Either way, disorganization should not deter financial goals with so many options available.
How do you get organized?