I wasn’t completely disorganized in my financial life, but I knew we could do better. This is an area where I’m always challenged.
Several years back, a friend had recommended Mint. Setup was easy and linking my accounts worked pretty well. This gave us a general view of things and I set up a budget and some goals for paying off debts. It was nice for a while, but I never really felt like it made an impact on our behavior. There wasn’t a clearly visible trend-line for me to track and the budget became more of a suggestion than a hard rule. Oops, we went over on groceries again!
Last Fall, I decided to try out Personal Capital. Again, setup was easy and most of the accounts worked*. This had exactly what I wanted. Net Worth and Cash Flow graphs are right there on the home screen. I now had a better graphical representation of how things are changing over time. This suits the way my brain works.
In my next post I want to talk about learning to understand cash flow and how i’m adding that to my view of our financial health.
*There is an issue with Associated Credit Union 2-factor that makes me re-authenticate every time but PC is aware of the problem and stated that it will take a code update on their part to fix
First, I want to back up a bit and give a summary of last year.
We started the year out with around $236k worth of outstanding debt including our mortgage. Here was the breakdown:
- $181k mortgage
- $18k car loan
- $28k credit cards (Holy Hell!!!)
- $9500 student loans
The credit cards were an interesting build up of several years with a lot of small purchases and the occasional big ticket repair. I was always paying more than the minimum, but I had never put together a spreadsheet to track purchase + interest. I wasn’t even keeping up with the amount we were adding!
So, finally, in August I started putting together a nice sheet to track our overall debt and projected payoff for the year. Once I had it all laid out, I could clearly see what the interest was doing to us.
I was able to transfer around $13k to a combination 0% introductory offers from our bank and Chase Slate. These both expire at the end of 2015 which I projected to be achieveable.
Another $10k was moved into an unsecured loan from the bank with a low interest rate. Not ideal, but way better than the rates we were paying and predictable.
By the end of 2014, we had only reduced our overall debt by 2.8%. It was a step in the right direction, but I feel we can do better. I do NOT want to spend the next 20 years working on this!
(currently feeling angry about getting there yet determined not to let it happen again)
Not only is the canoe dock a physical place, it’s also a frame of mind for me.
The place is a small concrete dock located on a lake in East Tennessee. I got to spend several summers enjoying it during my tenure as a camp counselor. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.
The frame of mind derived from this place, for me, is an almost Zen state of being. It is a sense of well being and rightness. Worries and stress melt away even amidst the chaos of summer activity. The tranquility derived from late night swimming under the starts is amazing.
It’s been a long time since I was able to experience that on a daily basis. Now I work a full-time career, am married with two children, and have all of the bills and stresses one derives from living the typical mid-class American life.
Last year, I began reading several blogs such as Mr Money Mustache, Retire by 40, and Financial Samurai… and I had an epiphany. I can do better! I can unburden myself from a lot of the stress and rediscover my Canoe Dock state of being.
The first step is getting control of my finances. This blog will server as a way for me to document the journey, track my goals, and discuss the challenges that we face along the way. I’m a bit A.D.D. as well, so I’m sure I’ll chime in with other interestes as well. Here we go…