America’s economic situation is dismal. The headlines are depressing, the outlook isn’t good, and Americans are struggling in a sea of unemployment. Despite this, I somehow managed to let my spending spiral out of control. I have finally acknowledged my problem – I was a spendaholic – and thanks to a slew of easy-to-use online tools I have found ways to regain control of my habits.
Now, a slight disclaimer: I didn’t go crazy and accumulate tons of debt on credit cards. I am still relatively debt-free, but when I analyzed my spending habits, I realized that I wasn’t saving as much each month as I could have been. Money that should be going toward my professional and personal development was being spent on… well, that was the problem: I had no idea where my money was going.
It all started when I got my first full-time job. Receiving regular pay checks after being a broke college student for so long made it a little less painful to check my bank account. In fact, those checks made it so much easier that I stopped checking my accounts altogether. I became a spendaholic because I knew the money would be there.
In January, I checked my account and realized that after 4 months of having a job, my financial standing had not changed as much as I’d hoped it would. My savings had little growth and my checking had stayed the same every month.
Then, it hit me: I was living in the moment, and not thinking about my future. I realized that if I continued spending money at the rate I was, I would never save enough to go back to school or buy a car or purchase a home or travel as much as I wanted. Something had to change.
I decided I would sign up for a financial service that tracked and analyzed my spending habits. Many of my friends and co-workers recommended mint.com, and that’s the service I went with. (I’ve also heard great things about expensr.com.)
I’ve been using mint.com for a week, and I’m hooked. I can go back several months and see where the majority of my money went. It was a brutally honest wake up call – one I desperately needed. Like most young professionals trying to get settled in a new city, most of my money went toward my social life: concerts, movies, eating out, and happy hours.
Using mint.com, I adjusted my budget so I was cutting back on these things. Even with slight changes in each area, I will be saving thousands of dollars this year that can be put toward future investments. Mint.com also sends me alerts when I am getting close to a certain budget, or if large transactions occur in my accounts which helps me easily track my monthly spending.
In this era of economic uncertainty, I decided to reel in my inner spendaholic so I can practice financial responsibility skills that I hope will serve me well as I get further away from the collegiate lifestyle.