It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. I had a feeling when I started it that it would be hard to keep content going since my wife was expecting a baby shortly after I had started the blog. I do apologize for that as it has been close to three motnhs since I last posted anything. I wanted to take this post as an opportunity to really circle back on what’s been going on and what my plans are going forward for this blog.
So let’s start off with what’s been going on. My wife and I had a baby back in November. November 28th, 2016 to be exact. Since Avery was born there have been many ups and downs. The first month was not a very pleasant month to be quite honest and blunt. Thankfully I was able to take a ton of time off work and help out at home. I only worked 8 days between Thanksgiving and January 3rd. That made a world of difference. Our daughter was a crier, especially during that first month and she did not sleep more than a couple of hours at a time (if that). And when she did sleep, she almost always had to be held. We couldn’t put her down. When we weren’t fighting to keep her asleep we were constantly having to console her as anything more than 10 or 15 minutes of her being left alone was too much for her to handle. So keeping this blog going and focusing on personal finance wasn’t a huge priority for me. I also want to add that I am not in any way complaining about my daughter and parenting. I am just saying that for us it was a very trying and challenging experience that shifted our priorities and focus even more than we thought it would. We knew that having a child would require a shifting of priorities and certain things would be put on hold, but the sheer volume of time we had to spend consoling our daughter was unexpected. There were some really awesome moments in all of it, but it was very trying too. Thankfully she has gotten better at sleeping and worked through her crying phase. It has made all the difference in the world at home!
So aside from adjusting to life with a newborn, I have been trying to keep things from my pre-baby life in place. This may sound weird to some people, but one of the things that was important to me going into parenthood was making sure that I was still me. As silly as it sounds I wanted to make sure I still made time to watch pro wrestling, play video games, exercise, and work on this blog. I have not been able to do those things as consistently as I’d like, or on my own terms like I used to be able to do, but I still have been able to find time with some flexibility. I now wake up at 5:30 in the morning to exercise instead of doing it after work in the evening. I play a lot more mobile games. Feeding the baby and holding her while she sleeps is a great time to watch pro wrestling. All in all, things are going pretty well at this point with parenthood. We are starting to reach the new normal and adjust accordingly.
What about our finances? I haven’t been able to spend a ton of time managing our finances since Avery was born, but I do think I have found a solution. The first part of that solution boils down to better time management. Avery is just over three months old now and sleeping better, which helps immensely. The other thing from a time management perspective that is making a difference is how I am managing our finances. Pre-baby I was downloading every transaction from our credit card and bank account, aggregating everything together, and categorizing things manually. Then I had an Access database linked to an excel spreadsheet that I was using to analyze and look for trends and details on where we were spending our money. It was fun, I enjoyed it, and it was a good way for me to stay on top of things. It just isn’t feasible with a new baby. I just can’t dedicate that much time to managing our finances. That isn’t to say I don’t want to. It’s just that pre-baby I could deal with the inefficiencies that I knew existed in our system. Now I don’t have the time to deal with them.
As I was coming to terms with the fact that my spreadsheets were going to have to be retired, I did a lot of research on what was available to help manage ones finances on a day to day basis. I was familiar with Mint, YNAB, and Quicken, but I did not realize how many other tools were out there to help you manage your finances and budget. I can’t even begin to tell you how many programs I looked at, but here is a list off the top of my head: The aforementioned Mint, Quicken, and YNAB. In addition to those three I discovered CountAbout, PowerWallet, GoodBudget, Home Budget, MVelopes, LearnVest, Personal Capital, Moneydance, and I’m sure a few others I am forgetting. Ultimately I decided that for the Funances, Quicken was the way to go. It gave me the customization I need and the ability to link all my accounts so that things download automatically to the system. It also spits out the analysis that I need to help me see where we are spending our money and auto-categorizes a majority of our transactions. It just works. We are supplementing our process of managing our money with Mint and Personal Capital. Mint for tracking the day to day spending just to make sure we don’t go over budget during the month, and Personal Capital just gives me the views into my investment portfolio that help me better understand my asset allocation and returns.
So what does this all mean for this blog? Well, first and foremost it means it will be easier for me to bring materials to this blog. One of the things I want to do is share our story as we work towards the path to financial independence. For us that is spending and our monthly budgeting. Doing that analysis in excel made it difficult for me to aggregate the data to share with this blog. With Quicken, Mint, and Personal Capital it will be much easier for me to present data to review and comment on. My whole process of updating and revewing our spending on a monthly basis is now probably an hour or two (tops) versus three to four prior. My goal is to use the time savings and easier aggregation of data to share more of our story.
Secondly, after spending so much time reviewing all these app’s and software programs that help you budget I feel like I should give feedback on them. I will probably spend some time writing my own personal reviews on some of these app’s. Some of them I did not spend a ton of time with so the reviews will be more high level, but with so many options out there I want to lay out the pro’s and con’s of each. What I liked about each one, and why I ultimately went in another direction if I didn’t use it. Full disclosure ahead of time: None of these companies is paying me a dime to comment on their product. I want to do this simply because I had the experience of reviewing them for my own personal use and want to bring that knowledge to anyone who finds this blog.
There are two other things I want to do with this blog. First, I want to produce content that has depth and meaning. I don’t want to just shove an article out that talks about why you should invest your money in a 401k instead of a Roth IRA (or vice versa). If I write that article (which I probably will one day) I ant to explain why, and provide the math behind it. Posts like that are going to have gaps between them right now simply because of the juggling act of working a full time job, raising a newborn, investing in my marriage, and other commitments I have take up a lot of time. And it will take time to produce quality content, and I want those types of posts to mean something.
The second thing I intend to do is really track our journey towards financial independence and talk about the ongoing successes and struggles that we experience on the road there. A couple things that this entails in my mind will be:
- Overview of our monthly budget and spending with the intention of looking at wins/losses and struggles/successes on a monthly basis
- Short term I want to spend time (as mentioned above) talking about some of the tools we are using to manage our journey to FIRE
- Some commentary and general reflections on some of the things my family and I are dealing with that impact our road to FIRE. This is a broad topic and is meant to be and in my mind it ranges from talking about time management issues, to challenges we are facing at work.
More specifically, over the next few weeks and months here is what I am envisioning:
- 2016 year with the Funances in review – an oveview of our budgeting, investment accounts, and net worth from January 2016 through December 31, 2016
- What our budget looks like this year
- Details on how I am using Mint, Quicken, and Personal Capital to manage our finances
- A general overview of our spending plan and follow ups on how we are doing
This may all seem somewhat odd and scatterbrained, and to some extent I would agree that it is, but I wanted to take some time and and really scope out what my goals are with this blog, where things are at with me since I haven’t posted in a while, and give a sense of where things are at with the Funances, financially (pun intended there). Having a baby has forced me to really look at my goals and become more targeted and efficient. For me, that has meant a shift in focus on how I manage our investing, budgeting, and spending on a day to day basis. And as I have said, I want this blog to reflect that journey we are on to FIRE. So that’s where things are today. More to come in the coming weeks and I can guarantee the first thing I’ll be posted on is our 2016 year in review.