Track your damn expenses!

I’m not very good at math and I like processes that’re sanity checked. I use calculators for most calculations, not necessarily because I don’t know how to do them but because it feels good to know that the little 70s inspired calculator built into my phone has checked my arithmetic.

I had to google the spelling of arithmetic just now, full disclosure.

Anyway, I’ll keep this quick and stupid simple – The same as my strategy for managing personal expenses. My payout days are the 1st and the 15th of each month. I don’t slack, I don’t pay “when I remember.” Later, I’ll write about how I justify spending and how to save for things you want but “could never afford” but first a reliable foundation of bill payment and savings is needed.

Pay your rent, pay your car payment, and pay your credit cards on the 1st of each month. You should also save a little cash at the same time, even if it’s $25 or $50, preferably in a savings account that accrues interest. It’ll add up quicker than you expect. Saving at the start of the month works for me because it sets the stage for my rest-of-month when it comes to non-essential purchases.

Save first, spend smarter later.

Utilities, mobile phone, internet, Netflix, etc. All those payments go out on the 15th of each month. I schedule them mid-month regardless of due date because by nature these service providers are usually most flexible with payment. As long as you send their money every month, none of these companies will go after your credit report or turn you off. If one does complain about your payment schedule, you can easily move their account into the 1st of the month category as an exception. I did-so for garbage pickup in my hood, because they didn’t pickup one week due to a “late” payment.

Easy, right? The 1st and the 15th are finance days, every single month. Write out a list of your expenses and schedule both days on a calendar with reminders. You’ll just need to set aside ~30 minutes twice a month to handle from now on and you’ll never miss a payment again if you stay with it for life.

To help, I’ve shared an excel spreadsheet similar to the one I use for tracking expenses below. Personal finance gets easier when you frequently review it and keep track of it a year at a time. Simply fill in each bill amount and confirmation number each time you pay. I filled in some example activity in the column for January, and illustrated how I map out a recurring payment (a charge card purchase payoff in this case.) Use this as a starting point for getting your shit together financially!

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