Today I want to share some of my favorite steps for money management, both while in college and beyond. I’ve probably tried dozens, but these are the ones that have stuck with me because I feel that they’re easy, effective, and efficient.
Set up online banking apps for all financial accounts
To preface this step, it isn’t completely necessary – just having online access to all of your transactions is fine! However, having the apps for all of my accounts is nice because it’s about as easy as checking Instagram.
The apps I use are the ones for my:
Chase bank accounts – personal checking and savings accounts
Ally bank account – personal savings account with great interest rates
local bank account – a joint checking account with my dad, kept pretty much empty
Discover credit card – I’ve used it for 3 1/2 years (and it has great college student perks!)
Acorns investment – my very long-term future car fund (my current car is only about a year old)
Betterment investment- this is what I use for my Roth IRA
Venmo – I use this with my roommates and friends to pay each other back for utilities, food, etc.
I check my Chase and Discover accounts every few days because those are the ones I make purchases from. I check the others about once a week because, naturally, there aren’t as many transactions since I don’t use them to buy things. One thing to note is that I don’t specify accounts on my purchases when I record transactions (which I’ll explain in the next few steps) because I almost exclusively use my Discover card (it has a great cash-back policy!). Also, you can use Betterment (or the Mint app, which I don’t have) to sync all of your accounts in one place which would make checking your transactions even more simple.
Use a monthly-view calendar to physically record transactions from all accounts in one place
As I explained above, I have a variety of accounts that serve a variety of purposes. At the end of the day, it is all my money, so that’s why I like to track it all in one place. I use the monthly view pages of my Ban.do planner to keep track of every cent that comes in and out of my accounts, as well as when I transfer money between them. Below is an example of what this month looks like (using made-up numbers and transactions). I’ve also linked a blank copy of this calendar at the end of this post. Feel free to download it and try out out my method this month! It’s also important to point out that physically writing down transactions and amounts is very helpful to me, compared to keeping track in a spreadsheet. I’ve tried both, and this is the one that really stuck, so that’s why I recommend it. (This calendar was created on my iPad through the GoodNotes app, in case anyone is curious!)
Designate different colors to record income, investing, transfers, and purchases
I use Staedtler’s Triplus Fineliner Marker Pens to differentiate between different transactions in my accounts. The colors I use are:
Red – purchases. This makes up about 90% of each monthly page and sometimes it’s really depressing.
*Red – bills. Since it’s still a payment I use red, but I wanted to identify them as something out of my control. Typically, this is just Internet, rent, and water.
Blue – investments. In the brief description, I put whether it’s an investment into my Acorns or Betterment account.
Green – income. This is any money I receive into my accounts. This does exclude Venmo – I only write that when I transfer it into my actual bank account.
Brown – credit card payments and any major transfers. This is just to show how much I paid for my Discover bill and which account(s) I paid it out of.
Usually, I just will put something short and sweet like “Walmart” or “B&N” (Barnes & Noble) because I don’t want the boxes to get too cluttered – that makes it hard to read. I also don’t put dollar signs when I put the amount, for the same reason.
In the side column, sum weekly spending, and monthly investing, income, and bills
I started doing this because I feel like a week is a good amount of time to analyze my spending habits. Typically, I’ve found that I usually spend about $150 / week. So, if I spend significantly more than that, I know I need to try and spend significantly less than that the next week.
I do only sum my total investments, income and bills once a month simply because they aren’t as frequent. I also track my work income separately from any other income (like gifts or Venmo transfers). That way, I can see how much money I earned in a given month.
Have one “fun buy” a month!
I started doing this over the summer when I really wanted a Kendra Scott necklace. I decided that I could buy it as long as it was my only fun purchase that month. Then, I decided to do something like this every month. My goal for my one fun buy a month is to make it less than $100, something I’ll use consistently, and obviously, fun! Some of these include my planner and some new school supplies, a new bedspread and pillows, my new Vera Bradley Playful Penguin Tote, and a make-up haul that included the newest Naked palette.
I write whatever my fun purchase is at the top of the planner, and then every time I record my purchases, I glance about the one thing I bought that was really fun and special to me. It’s rewarding and has also taught me a lot about what I really want to use my future fun buys on.
So, how has this helped me be more financially aware? Here’s an example. Yesterday, I was at a store and was very close to buying a new essential oil for my diffuser. Then, this little voice in my head said something along the lines of, “but you’re already waaaaaay above your weekly average… And you’ve already written a lot of purchases since you last paid off your credit card bill… Maybe you should wait a while.” So, I put it back. Let me tell you: not that long ago, I would’t have even known how much I’d already put on my card for the month, let alone about adding $10 to it. But, keeping track by following these steps has slowly been helping me spend less, be aware of how much I’ve been spending, and save more.
As promised, here is the link to the blank version of the calendar I created! Let me know what you think, and if you would like one for December!
What are your favorite ways to manage your money and be conscious of your spending?