Once you’ve got your financial toolkit assembled, your bill payment systems locked in, your control panel in place, and your command center set up, you’ll probably feel more in charge of your money than ever before.
Let’s make sure that feeling lasts. For this system to work, you have to do ongoing maintenance. On a regular basis—at least weekly at first—you’ll need to
- Check your bank balances and transactions
- Check your credit card balances and transactions
- Pay any bills that need to go out in the next week (if they’re not being paid automatically)
- Update your cash-flow projection (which basically means deducting upcoming bills from your checking account total so you see what you have left to spend)
- Transfer money (if necessary) among your accounts
If your cash flow projection shows that your checking account will be getting a bit low by the end of the week, for instance, you may want to move some money from your savings account. Or if your property tax bill is coming up and you’ve been saving for it in another account, you’ll want to shift that money into checking before sending out the payment.
If you use Quicken or Money, you can probably do all of this in 15 minutes or less. If you have to sign into a bunch of different Web sites and do your projections with a spreadsheet or by hand, you may need 30 minutes or longer at first.
Just make sure to do this update weekly. Set up regular appointments with yourself on your bill calendar, PDA, or other organizing system and make sure not to put it off more than a day or two. Once you’re comfortable with the system, you may be able to cut back to every other week or so.
Or you may go exactly the opposite direction. I know some Quicken and Money junkies who update their software daily or even more often. It’s actually fun for them to see exactly where they stand. Wesabe tends to have the same effect on folks: many who were clueless about their finances find themselves checking in with their accounts, and their new online money buddies, throughout the day.
You probably have better things to do with your time, but you may understand their enthusiasm when you feel that heady rush of being in control of your money, instead of your money pushing you around, for the first time.