Mini-Money Challenge: Own Your Financial Numbers

As I recall, Oprah, in one of her less-svelte periods, talked about “owning her number.” As in, admitting publicly that she weighed 200 pounds. Owning Your Number is not being scared to really look at your starting point. It’s about getting past denial.

I consistently find the philosophical fundamentals of financial fitness and physical fitness are the same. One deals in dollars and one in calories or pounds, but the concepts are usually duel-applicable.

Today your goal is to start to Own Your Financial Number.

You don’t have to admit anything publicly here, but you need to know your financial numbers so you can tell if you are heading towards your goals or away from them. If you don’t already, you need to know:

1) Your Net Worth (Here’s how to calculate yours.)

2) Your Income

3) Your Savings Rate (Here’s how your rate of savings directly correlates to how long it will take you to retire.)

4) Your Expenses / Spending

…last, and hopefully least….

5) Your Debt

If you don’t already track money stuff, all that can actually be kind of a lot to pull together at once. Way too much for a Mini-Money Challenge. So let’s start with the one thing that traps more people than any other: Debt.

My spreadsheet software came preinstalled with various financial planning templates like this one to make tracking savings and spending easier. Yours might have something similar.

Your Mini-Money Challenge

Your challenge is to write down all your sources of debt, the amount of each and at what interest you are carrying this debt. Typical sources of debt are:

1) Mortgage (French for “Death Pledge,” which will probably not surprise any readers who are currently underwater on their home.)

2) Second Mortgage / Line of Credit

3) Car Loan

4) Student Loan

5) Credit Cards (Gas Cards, Retail Store Cards, Visa, Mastercard, etc.)

6) Personal Loans (Great Aunt Mabel? Mom and Dad?)

7) Anything else?

Just list out everything you owe. Ignore what you’ve read about the “good debt” of a mortgage or student loans. Sure, your PhD was a better investment than $2,500 sunglasses or a daily delivery pizza habit. But now that you have that debt, it’s something you have to pay off and what really matters is the interest rate.

The longer you carry debt, and the higher the rate of interest, the higher the real cost of whatever it is that debt has allowed you to buy. Or perhaps I should say borrow, ’cause until the debt is paid, you don’t really own that stuff anyway.

If this kind of stuff intimidates you, or if you feel you’ve made some less-that-sterling decisions in the past about spending and you are, frankly, scared to face your number, you need this challenge more than anyone. You just have to take a deep breath and get brave. Put on your Big Kid Pants and do it. That’s what this challenge is all about. Remember, knowing what you are dealing with is always less scary than guessing at what you might be dealing with.

Besides, if you don’t have a good idea of what your starting place is, it’ll be harder to brag about how much you paid off when you are totally debt free.

All this Mini-Money Challenge requires is a piece of paper and a pen and some courage. You don’t have to get fancy.

Later on in the month, these numbers will come up again, so keep them in a safe place.

Maxi-Money Bonus Challenge

Okay, maybe the debt-list thing is too easy. Maybe you are already debt free. If so, tackle the rest of the Own Your Financial Numbers List. Start putting your info together in a way that makes sense to you and that is simple for you to maintain.

For a long time I had a very hard time tracking all my financial info because I was trying to manage file-folder records when I live a laptop life. Recently I started using Mint.com, a website run by Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks accounting software. It used to be a chore to itemize spending (so I rarely did it) but now I actually find tracking our finances fun and empowering. (FYI, I’m not affiliated with Mint so I don’t earn a commission on this referral or anything. I just really do like the site this much.)

Once I set things up, Mint did the hard part of categorizing and averaging. I just set up budgets and enabled reminders and corrected a few mis-categorizations and it was done. Mint emails me or texts me if I go over in a spending category for the month. They will show me trends in various categories and automatically update accounts from all over, including bank accounts, retirement savings and credit card debt.

If you are looking for a tool to help you pull everything together so you can really see whats going on with our financial health, and if you have a very plugged-in, online-banking style of financial management anyway, I recommend checking out Mint.com.

That said, a spiral notebook or a simple Excel spreadsheet where you record all your various balances monthly works great too. It just depends on what your style is.

If you don’t need to do this challenge at all because you already know all this stuff, reward yourself by spending five minutes playing with the super fun investment calculators on Bankrate.com. Because really, if you have all this info at your fingertips already, then you are certainly the type of person who finds compound interest calculations awesomely fun.

You don’t have to disclose any numbers, but in the comments, let us know how you feel about your debt – in control? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Does your debt level affect your lifestyle? If you are in debt, do you have a plan to get out of debt, or do you not really worry about it?

Is This The Most Attractive Veggie Garden Ever?
To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: October 2012

Comments

  1. After struggling for the first years of our marriage, we finally reached the point that we were debt-free except for mortgage for about a year. Then we decided to buy a used RV and took out a modest loan to do that. I feel like we are in control of our debt, have good interest rates on our loans and know what we need to do to get out of debt as quickly as possible. We pay an extra half-payment each month on the RV in order to pay it off quickly. We are torn between accelerating our mortgage payments in a similar fashion, or spending that money on home improvements. We will probably go the home improvement route for a while, until we have our home/gardens close to the way we want them, then start paying more on the mortgage each month.

    I think our debt affects our lifestyle, but in a positive way. It keeps us mindful/deliberate in our spending instead of making purchases just because we can.

  2. We have little in the way of savings or 401(k), but the only debt we have had for all 9 years of our marriage is mortgage debt. I paid off my student loan before we met, and he had paid off his truck, neither of us carried credit card debt, both of us had mortgages. One of the reasons I married him was our similarity in terms of our income, use of income, and attitude about income vs. outgo and debt. Yeah, real romantic, I know. :) Wasn’t the only reason! But it definitely helped make the “marriage” vs. “shacking up” decision. We use our credit cards pretty heavily, but we pay them off 100% every month, so it’s not a lot different from using cash, except that we get money back and it’s convenient.

    I gave up the finances to the spousal unit when we married, or when we had a kid, or somewhere in there I stopped handling them. Not sure why. He uses an old fashioned check book. I miss doing them in Quicken or something, and projecting out month to month and budgeting for everything…maybe I’ll have to take it back. Mint sounds cool. ;-)

    Oh, and totally odd…I did have a Great Aunt Mabel. Awesome lady.

    • I think many NW Edible readers must already be quite thoughtful about their spending. This is great. :)

    • Mom23Wolves says:

      I’m sure everything is fine for you, but I would just caution anyone who gives up the finances to the spousal unit. Good your attitudes around $$ is similar. Mine became a Certified Financial Planner and I thought surely could handle the bills while I dealt with work (I was the only one employed), a toddler and two babies, and all the household chores. Well, we ended up with $75k in credit card debt (as more and more bad spending got rolled over onto 0% APR teaser cards) with one card up to 32% interest. That was a living nightmare for me to deal with. I will never again hand the reins to anyone.

  3. Erica,
    Great post! I use the Robert Kiosaki “Rich Dad Poor Dad” version of net worth calculation. I don’t count my principal residence’s market value into my assets, but I count it’s mortgage debt as a liability. I count my rental property’s values as assets, but his theory is, “you have to live somewhere, and all your house does is cost you money. It never makes you any.

    It’s a lot harder to end up with a positive net worth number that way, but when you do, you know you’re doing alright.

    I also calculate it with and without the kids’ college savings 529 totals, for long range perspective.

    Thanks for the post. Nice work!

    Marc

    • Thanks Marc, This is a fascinating and sensible take on net worth calculation that automatically gives preference to more liquid assets and rapid pay-off of your primary residence. I think that makes a lot of sense, thanks for sharing the idea. We also track with and without 529, and for us that’s a pretty substantial difference – over 10% of our total savings is 529 allocated, with more investment there as we try to get jr.’s education fund rocking before he hits pre-school. :) I haven’t read Rich Dad Poor Dad – should I request it at the library?

      • Rich Dad Poor Dad is totally worth a read. It’s well written, and it ROCKED my hubs world when it came to financial ideas, including the idea that you have to go to college and get a degree to be successful (read: rich).

      • I would highly recommend at least his first book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” It really changed a lot of my opinions and ideas about how to make money. He’s a smart and very, very practical guy.

      • Sara Saver says:

        A lot of people assume they need a 529 plan when they’re not even maxing out their own retirement accounts. If your state doesn’t give you a contribution tax break, and you’re below the income max to fund a Roth, you can use one to stand in as a 529 Plan. Otherwise, all your doing is compartmentalizing with another account and increasing the complexity of your finances. This is because current IRS rules let you pull money out from IRAs penalty free for you, your spouse, or your kid’s higher education. (A Traditional IRA can be used too but it would not have the same result because you get hit with income tax on withdrawals, unlike a 529.) A Roth is advantageous because you can leave unused dollars growing tax deferred as long as you live if you want and there’s no tax on any withdrawals after 59-1/2. Most investment planning professionals tend to advise you to max out retirement plans before college plans because people put off and/or woefully under save for that goal. Theoretically it’s very hard for you to make up the lost time and dollars for the biggest savings goal of your life, while your kid can pay for college with loans and future salary if s/he has to.

        I think 529 Plans are fantastic; this is just some food for thought about how and when to use them. Everyone has to do what works for them.

        • Hey Sara if you happen to see this reply, I would love a good resource explaining exactly where the benefits of a Roth vs. Trad IRA break out, particularly over various tax rates and income. Since we expect our tax rate to go down in retirement we’ve made the decision to go Traditional. But it’s one of those areas that haunts me because I feel like I don’t have as much understanding as I want to. If you have any prefered resources to recommend I’d love to know them. Thanks!

  4. We have a lot of debt, and I’ve found that mint does too much automatically for us (and usually wrongly – I just got an alert that we spent more than usual on “mortgage” and it was the same amount we have spent for the last 14 months)… I prefer You Need a Budget (youneedabudget.com – no I don’t work or shill for them, just love them). It forces you to look at what you’re spending your money on rather than let Mint categorize it. It takes some getting used to, but the free classes and forums are awesome. Once I wrapped my head around the philosophy, I finally felt like I was making progress instead of treading water. So far, we’ve paid off $60k+ of debt (with $60k-ish to go – go grad school!) – in one year. It’s really changed our relationship with money.

    • $60K in one year! You are awesome, I bow down to you. I’ll check out YNAB, hadn’t heard of them before but thanks for the suggestion. I do think the trick is to find a system that works FOR YOU, and your unique situation. Some people love old school checking registers, some people will have more success with one of the various software programs, etc. As you say, it’s about getting a tool and a philosophy in sync and then taking action for your individual goals. I love your story, thanks for sharing.

      • OK I went and looked at YNAB and I just want to quote this part from the website because I love it. It shows that all this stuff isn’t about deprivation, it’s about prioritization so you can have BOTH what you love and value, and sleep at night knowing that “what you love” isn’t bankrupting you:
        From http://www.youneedabudget.com/method/rule-two:
        “Buy Things You Want Without Guilt
        All this talk about bills, obligations, and debts is a bit misleading. You use Rule Two to save for things you want as well. Vacation. Anniversary getaways. New gadgets.

        I love to play golf. It’s a ridiculously expensive sport, and there’s no way to justify the price. Except that I love it, which is all the justification I need. And I budget for it.

        I know you’re sitting there shaking your head in bewilderment because you can’t understand why anyone would pay good money to swing wildly at a tiny ball. And I shake my head in bewilderment because I can’t understand how you can possibly justify spending money on stamps, stencils, and stickers.

        What you buy doesn’t matter, as long as you’re spending money with full awareness, and good information (which you’ll have right on your Budget screen).

        I tell you, it’s a wonderful thing to want something for a bit. It’s good for you. You’re healthier for it. You’re certainly better-looking (which comes from better sleep and less stress).”

      • We had a bit of a tax windfall this year, which immensely helped (we sold a reluctant rental property that had lost money and sold it at a loss, so uncle sam gave us back about $25k). Instead of spending it on frivolous things though, we used it to re-fi our primary residence to 4.125% and the rest to pay off debt. Now, when we get a windfall of any kind, 20% goes to “fun”, the rest goes to paying off debt: A totally different mindset – which I think is The Most Important Tool anyone can have. We’ve only been using YNAB for a year now, but I’m willing to sign its praises to anyone who will listen. It took use from worrying about money to being comfortable with where we were and a plan for where we wanted to be.

  5. Christina says:

    I’m pretty well in control of my credit card and student loans. I use my credit card for just about all purchases but pay it off entirely at the end of the month–with the points I earn, I get about $30 back each month (which I should be putting into savings…). I pay up to the next multiple of $5 or $10 each month on my two student loans, which total around $15,000 and have interest rates around 3%. I rent, and my car is in decent shape, I have money automatically transferred to my 403(b), and have been since I started working full-time at 23. I need to re-establish an automatic savings plan though to save a portion of my paycheck every month, as my emergency savings tends to get used then never reestablished.

    My biggest debt issue is around $1000 in medical bills that I’m too angry to pay off. It was for a surgery that the doctors assured me would fix a problem, which, 6 months later, has not been fixed and when I asked why not they say “Oh, well, there will always be somewhat of the issue,” plus some other billing issues that my insurance and doctors both say is my fault for not knowing “routine” tests (for a specialty doctor I’d never seen before) cost in the multiple $100s. I need to pay them because the bills are starting to go to collections, but I’m just so angry about the situation that I don’t want to–but not paying really hurts me more than them, so maybe this post was just the kick in the pants I need to pay them and get them off my back.

    • Grrr. As someone who is two weeks into the recovery for a procedure which should have fixed a problem and has instead created one, I sympathize. I just received one of the many bills coming my way for my medical procedure and it’ll be in the thousands with the likelihood of doing the surgery over again if things do not resolve on their own in the next few weeks.
      I’ll say two things. The first is a philosophical thing I learned from one of my best friends: “Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.” In other words, you got screwed, but what is the on-going cost to you of holding on the the anger about getting screwed vs moving on?
      The second thing, which is more practical, is that I think most hospitals have people called Medical Ombudsmen who help to resolve stuff like this. I may be way wrong about the scope of what they help with, but it might be something to google to see if there is a way to get the resolution you are looking for. Good luck!

      • Christina says:

        First, very best of luck to you while you recover. I didn’t want to bring negative healthcare stuff your way while you’re in the midst yourself, but, yeah–it’s the only industry I can think of that effectively tells you the cost after you get the service. Can you imagine that in any other industry?

        I’ve tried calling my insurance company, and the doctor’s office directly. The most they said they could do was put me on a payment plan. I just need to suck it up, pay the damn thing so I can forget them and take it as a life lesson (that, in the grand scheme of things, was not life- or income- or livelihood-threatening), and move on.

        It felt good to get that off my chest though, and I’m looking into that YNAB program someone mentioned earlier. I use Mint myself as well, and love it 90% of the time, but I think that could be a good supplement.

        • Thanks. :) I won’t go into my set-piece rant about this issue here, but suffice it to say that I personally believe the current US system has all the drawbacks of socialized care and very few of the benefits, and all the drawbacks of private care with very few of the benefits because it isn’t actually either. As far as I can tell, no one – patients, doctors, hospitals, etc. – is particularly happy, patient care is near impossible for caregivers to prioritize and most things just flat cost more than they should. Good luck with your bill, and with moving forward. It sounds like this issue is unfair but not your hill to die on. I get it. :)

  6. Well, this should make all you other financial geniuses feel great! When we got married 20 years ago, I had a bit of student debt, which we paid off pretty quickly. We saved money. No debt. Shoulda coulda woulda bought a house, but didn’t. THEN we had 2 kids and it all went in the shitter. I went part time, started using the credit card and not paying it all off AND bought a business, which means unpredictable income. THEN we bought a house – in 2007. Not even a big one – it doesn’t even have a dishwasher for crying out loud. Long story short, even though it was only one credit card, the balance was massive and we soon became unable to pay much more than the minimum. I’d read about people calling the credit card company to set up 5 year interest-free payment plans – through the card company directly, not some counseling service. When it got to the point where in a few months, we’d be in big trouble, I figured I had nothing to lose by calling and asking about this plan thing. They do put you through the ringer a bit, BUT they did agree to it. I cannot tell you what an immense relief that was. We are now a year into it. The card was closed as part of the agreement, which means we only have 2 little store credit cards, and have to use cash for everything. Being small business owners, this means we don’t travel or eat out much when things are slow, as they have been this year so far. But I do feel like we are on the right track. In four years, we can put that payment into retirement, college, etc. And only owe on our mortgage. Were we dumb earlier and should have known better? Yes. But we are trying to make it right now – we are paying what we owe and didn’t walk away from an underwater house. We’re doing the best we can.

    • I am so proud of you! Lots of people make dumb decisions. Wising up and taking action is brave *and* smart. Great job. The credit card company would rather have you pay down your bill over time than declare bankruptcy and lose the ability to recoup their money at all. It sounds like you are well on your way. Great job!

    • I’m sorry you guys got in a pickle, but I’m so proud of you for owning up to your debts. So many people are taking the easy way out and often regret it. We all make the best decisions we can at the time and it is impossible to know what the future holds. I wish you success in your business and hope things improve soon.

  7. Hmmm…I don’t really have a budget that I work from (I know, I know!), although I do track my expenses and income in Excel. I might check out either or both of these websites and see what I think. Setting an actual budget and sticking to it would probably be a really good thing, if even to just keep me in line with random spending. I think No-Spend October will be an excellent lead-in to making my own budget.

    Right now I’m working on paying off credit card debt amassed during grad school when I worked several part-time jobs, but none of them close enough to full-time to get by and my student loans from said grad school which total about 22K before interest. I’m of two minds on the student loans: I work for a conservation non-profit, which makes me eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years at this non-profit so long as I make regular loan payments, so there is definitely impetus to not go over the monthly payment amount. But the debt is still hanging over me, regardless of whether it will be paid off in 8 years or not. I just don’t know. I’ve made my credit card the primary goal, and once that is paid off, then I’ll think more about the student loan payoff.

    • Hmmm…I’d assess based on the current interest you are carrying on your student loan and how likely you are to stick your job out for 8 more years. If you have an very low interest loan and the possibility of having the balance forgiven in 8 years, you might run the numbers comparing throwing extra money towards the loan vs. the potential risk/payoff from investing that extra payment money in an equity or index fund. But assuming your CC interest is higher than your SL, throwing all you’ve got at getting that paid off first is smart.

  8. We are getting there with debt. In 2008 we had two student loans, two credit cards, a car payment and a mortgage. By the end of 2010, we had paid off one credit card and the car. Before 2011 was over we had paid off the other card. This year we pulled money from my [very small] 401k and used it to pay off the smaller of the two student loans. So now all we have is the house and the larger student loan. It’s been a long process, but totally worthwhile.

    My husband is a big fan of Dave Ramsay, and he’s pretty much been on a crusade against our debt since reading/listening to him. He also liked Rich Dad Poor Dad a lot and does not consider our mortgage to be “good debt.” Basically, in our home there is no such thing. We quit saving for the kids’ educations in order to get our finances on stable ground and own what is ours. We figure it’s better to teach our kids this and then if they chose to go to college, they will have the skills to work for it, save for it, and know how to live without debt.

    • We have savings for the kids college but agree with you that teaching your kids financial prioritization is probably more valuable than writing their ticket for them. My folks paid for two years of my college (I got the first two years at Community College funded through a state program) and I feel I owe it to my kids to pay that forward and get them through undergrad w/o debt. After undergrad they are on their own though. :) Nick and I feel like you can blunder around quite a bit and recover from an awful lot, and as long as you are without debt which tends to literally compound the consequences of any financial mistake.

  9. Kudos to you Erica for tackling this topic. I have tried to broach this subject with our architectural staff (28 people) with very limited success – people tend to clam up; I feel that I’m lecturing or invading their privacy when I bring up savings. (We have a 401k program and it drives me nuts how few people participate fully.) 20 years ago I read “How Much is Enough?”
    http://www.context.org/iclib/ic26/ and have tried to remain conscious of where I stand fiscally ever since. Awareness is the starting point – owning it is spot-on.

    • Thanks. The thoughtful comments on this post are heartening, but I fear I may just be preaching to the choir – notice how few comments say, “I’m didn’t realize my debt was this high! I have to get this burden gone! Let’s go!” I fear that is because people in that position may be shying away from taking this challenge? Hopefully the No Spend Month and Mini-Money Challenges will be helpful for people. If that’s a matching 401K people are giving away free money to not participate. I can understand why that might drive ya bonkers a bit. :)

  10. I’ve been married 20 years and took over the finances fairly early on during the marriage. My husband and I used to have opposing philosophies on finances, but over the years I’ve convinced him my way was more secure. He liked having a lot of money in the bank and didn’t care how high the credit card balances were. I’d rather drain the bank every month than pay interest on anything. Over the years we’ve adopted some practices that work for us, so no one handles all the money or makes all the decisions. I handle the family accounts and he handles the business acounts and we discuss any major purchases. We were lucky to take advantage of some very good years for his consulting business and socked away a good amount in retirement and college funds as well as get out of credit card debt. When the economy turned we were quick to react and were able to get through the leanest times ok, but we stopped saving anything. We had a couple of years of tight budget with no extras, but now we have a little more breathing room. I hate to say, as good as I think we have been about making financial decisons, I have no idea how much we spend on things like food, entertainment or dining out, other than more than we should. I use one of my credit cards like a check book and don’t itemize things, just pay off the balance each month.

    This challenge will change that, it’s time to go back to itemizing and really know what I’m spending so I can have a budget. We do have another set of accounts that has worked well for us, we each have an allowance account, my husband would take a small amount out of each check and put it into our separate personal accounts and that was our fun money, for the things that aren’t necessary, but that make us happy. Even after we stopped putting money in savings, retirement and college fund we kept that habit, although we did reduce the amount.

    • It sounds like you have solid fundamentals. I found Mint.com to be really helpful for the categorization, categorization and budgeting side of things, you might also look at You Need A Budget (recommended by another reader, above) but Mint.com is free. A No Spend month tends to “reset” what we think of as “essentials” so it is very effective for getting the misc./food/entertainment type spending under control fast.

  11. I managed to get through many years of grad school with no student loans on a crazy-frugal student lifestyle, so debt isn’t really the issue for me (although I need to accept that at some point debt might be necessary, especially for a mortgage). For me, it’s currently about whether I make enough money to afford some of the things I want in life – mostly land and a house – and some less tangible things like job flexibility and freedom from worrying too much about money. I currently save almost 50 percent of my (far from huge) income, but I worry about the future. I think my challenge is going to be to get a handle on some of these numbers – especially housing costs and retirement numbers – so that I can have a better sense of how I’m doing and what I need to do to get to where I want to be.

    • If you are saving 50% of your income and are willing to continue to live on what you currently live on, I strongly suggest you visit this link I posted above: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/
      I think you’ll like it, and that site may have some good stuff for you. :)

      • Thanks, Erica – it looks like there’s some really interesting ideas and tips there, and I have to admit that the idea of being able to retire rather early is delightful. I’d really like to keep living on half of what I’m making – it works well for us, and it doesn’t feel like deprivation or anything negative, so long as it’s a choice. The only think we’ve talked about doing is moving to a somewhat better apartment (with real insulation, please), but we’re in no rush there.

  12. I like your bit about how good debt and bad debt are the same once you get to the paying-them-back part. Interest rates don’t care what you did with the money. The good/bad only matters when you’re deciding whether to incur the expense (and borrow for it) in the first place.

  13. Kristen A says:

    I am proud to say that my fiance and I have no debt! I never had student loans thanks to scholarships and both of our cars are not only paid off but were paid off early. We, unfortunately, are currently not home owners, but that is the next big step we are striving for. We’ve always had our monthly billing expenses in a spreadsheet to keep track. We aren’t participating in this months no spend challenge (upcoming wedding in a couple weeks and all). However, we are hoping to do our first one next year.

  14. Carolyn Thomas says:

    Great topic. Wish I could get my sp0use on board for no spend month, or even starting with a day or week. He does want to be debt free, but also wants his toys. :) We are working on getting spending under control ….. again. Daughter’s divorce and Son getting out of the Army and moving home wiped us out and maxed out the cards again. So did supporting them while they worked at getting back on their feet. If there had not been small grandchildren involved, we might not have been as helpful, but can’t let the babies go hungry or completely without the things that keep them from being too far out of style at school.(No, they don’t get everyitng, but just enough to keep them from being targets for dressing too far out of style) (I also pay for Karate lessons for one granddaughter and will willing pay for music lessons for the two older ones that are starting band this year in school) I have used Quicken since about 1998 and a Parsons product before that. However, when I chose to upgrade to the Rental version in 2009, I found it was just too much work for me and I got sloppy. The minute I got sloppy, our spending started getting out of control. Checking out Mint.com and You Need a Budget. For some reason, I have difficulty with the concept of using an online version of Quicken, which is silly considering that all my banking and credit card and utility billing is already out there!

  15. My debt’s okay – we only have our mortgage and HECS (kind of like student loans, but to the government and you just pay it back in your tax when you earn over a certain amount. It does grow with inflation, but that’s it. Not worth paying off early if you have any other kind of debt to pay down) – so I thought I got off lightly there for a minute until you said I have to go do the rest of the challenge! :)

    Seriously, our debt doesn’t phase me much, because we have a relatively small mortgage, but what we are struggling with is adapting our expenses to our income, now that we have three kids. I think we adjusted well enough to our income more or less halving 10 years ago with both of us working part time, but as the kids have gotten older (and multiplied), our income hasn’t adjusted, and we are just now really trying to come to terms with the fact that we need to figure out ways to really economise.

    I guess too it’s because both the older kids are in school now, and they go to a Steiner/Waldorf school, which isn’t so expensive as private schools go, but it’s still a significant chunk of our disposable income. Most of it, as it turns out.

    Great challenge Erica, not just the mini-challenge, but the whole month.

  16. I’m late to the party, but….what a great blog post and great idea! Such an important aspect of our lives, yet I – and many other people it would seem – have been sticking my head in the sand for a long time now, when it comes to my financial situation. My husband and I recently were introduced to Mustachianism (had no idea you were a Mustachian till I saw a post of yours in the MMM forum, which led me to this blog entry! ha!) and it has opened our eyes BIG TIME.

    Time to put on the Big Girl Panties, pull my head out of the sand, and any other platitudes you can think up, and start getting it sorted! It’s either that, or my Early Retirement Obsession will never come to a happy end… ;)

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