As a financial planner, I often hear the same request from clients: “I want to take the stress out of money management.”  Most of us do not enjoy fixating on every dollar we spend.  We do not want to spend our free time balancing checkbooks and paying bills.  But let’s be honest.  Managing your finances takes time and effort.  But there are ways to make it easier.  Let’s consider a basic piece of financial advice: track all of your expenses for at least one month.

And yes, I mean ALL of your expenses.  Every cent including that dollar you put in the tip jar at Dunkin Donuts or your favorite barista’s tip cup each morning or the shoes that you purchased during your lunch break or your daily trip to the vending machine for that afternoon snack. All of it.

Most people hate tracking their spending.  They refuse to do it and I can understand why.  Tracking your expenses is tiring and cumbersome.  But I assure you, this is an important step in improving your financial health.  You can’t take control of your finances if you don’t know where your money is going or if you’re living beyond your means. 

So, how do we simplify this task? Automate your tracking as much as you can.  One of my favorite finance websites is mint.com.  Mint.com is a free (yes, I said FREE) personal finance website that can automatically track and categorize each transaction you make with your credit cards and debit cards. The website also recently gave users the ability to manually enter cash transactions. 

 When you sign up for mint.com and link your bank accounts and credit cards to your mint.com account, the site will automatically collect your electronic financial transactions in one place.  That means that you don’t need to look at the statement for your Visa, then your American Express card and then your checking account in several different places.  You can also set up alerts and that will let you know when you’ve exceeded your food budget or your clothing budget or any other category you choose.  It’s straightforward and easy to use.  And because the site will categorize the information for you, it is easy to see where your money is going.

 You will still have to track the cash that you spend but think about how much time and frustration you can save if your credit and debit expenditures have already been recorded and categorized for you in one place.  If you’ve been hiding behind the excuse that you can’t seem to save receipts or you don’t have time to write everything down, now is the time to break out of that mindset so you can take control of your money.  Knowing where your money is going is the first step to financial freedom.

Kimberly Allman, Esq. is a financial planner and the President of Allman Financial Planning, LLC where she assists individuals who are seeking to improve their financial health.  She is also the Manager of Homeownership Preservation for the New York Mortgage Coalition where she provides assistance to homeowners in distress through seminars, informational workshops and one-on-one counseling.  She started her career as a corporate lawyer where she advised clients on a variety of investment products including hedge funds, mutual funds, structured products and real estate investment trusts.

© 2010 – 2011, Shalena D.I.V.A.- Author| Speaker| Life And Business Coach. All rights reserved.

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