One thing that I’ve learned about personal finance management is that for me, a major key has been to keep things as organized and as simple as possible. I know what you’re thinking – my current account setup is not exactly simple. And while that may be true, the way I manage it is very simple. I have tried a number of systems. I have used Mint.com and Yodlee.com, Microsoft Money, and YNAB and other types of spreadsheets. And what I’ve found is that Microsoft Money works for me for tracking the long term goals and YNAB is great for my monthly budgeting. My accounts are organized and while I don’t always feel completely in control, I always know what’s going on.
That doesn’t quite work out so well for the rest of my life. There are a lot of time and productivity options out there. There are calendars and to-do lists and virtual assistants and methods such as Getting Things Done. There’s a lot to keep track of as well – e-mail (both work, blog, and personal), news, blogs, social networks (everything from Flickr to Twitter), fitness (both nutrition and workouts). And then, once you’ve figured how to keep track of everything, you have to figure out how to do all the things you need to do in the day!
I’m always ready to try the next new website that’s designed to keep me on track, whether it’s an aggregator that displays Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Gmail on one page or a To Do List that will integrate with my e-mail and send me reminders. My problem? I’m an early adopter who loses interest too fast.
I was just recently looking into some new e-mail aggregators highlighted by this article. Unfortunately, I would want to be able to use these at home and at work, and in the office, I’m stuck with IE 6, which is frequently not supported. I don’t have the option to upgrade or use Firefox, so I’m stuck. That said, I’m pretty happy with how GMail works.
I use my personal account as my main account and have it set up to retrieve my blog e-mail and an old personal e-mail that I haven’t used in about five years. I have GMail set up with a number of auto filters – blog e-mails get added to the “CMP” filter, certain mailing lists get automatically filtered so they skip the inbox, e-mails from a choice few automatically get starred so I don’t miss them. I also believe in a clean inbox – everything gets dealt with and deleted or filtered into a “To Do” folder.
As for online to do lists, I’ve tried a number of them. My favorite so far is Remember the Milk, but I always end up just using a notebook that I carry with me wherever I go.
Other sites I use to stay organized?
So far, nothing completely trumps my trusty notebook, but these are some great resources. What do you use to stay organized?
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.