From June, 2014

I’m not a budget guru…

In fact, for years I cringed at the very mention of the word budget, as I’m sure many of us do. So why am I blogging about budgeting, you ask? According to a Gallup poll conducted in June of 2013, only 32% of people surveyed use a budget. Two of the top reasons people don’t use them is because they’re confusing and they take up too much time. Like many people, I’ve been confused by different tools out there, and been stressed by trying to find the time to effectively budget when there’s so much else to do. And in my frustration, I searched for a better way. The end result is FitFin.

Going back to why only 1/3 of us budget, a lot of it has to do with time. Whether it’s perception or reality, many of us don’t have the time to sit down for hours at a time to look at spreadsheets. With FitFin, it takes seconds to create and manage a budget. We’ve all got a few seconds here and there, right?

But we also have to look at time in terms of actually remembering to do it. How many times have you heard or read something that talks about budgeting only to think: Oh, I should probably do something about that. Then you go about your day and forget. Or, you have a budget already set up and periodically think about looking at it, only to never actually do it. We all do that, right? With FitFin, you have a reason EVERY WEEK to go into your budget. Several times a week, really. That’s because we combine your budget with the best shopping list tool available. According to a poll conducted by Reader’s Digest, 84% of us use a shopping list of some kind. Again, compare the 84% of shopping list users to the 32% of people who have a budget. I know we’re comparing apples to oranges, but from a familiarity/comfort standpoint, you can see that people are more receptive to shopping lists.

And that’s exactly our angle at FitFin. If we can provide you with the best shopping list out there that will actually talk to your budget, why not give it a try? We realize that your shopping list and your budget aren’t necessarily an obvious combination, like chocolate and peanut butter, but when you think about it, their integration makes sense because they’re both part of the shopping cycle.

Need more convincing on why to try it? Here are three benefits to tying your budget with your shopping list:

  1. You’ll visit your budget 3-4/week at a minimum.  The best part is that you’ll only have to look at your budget for about 10 seconds to get a clear picture of what’s going on.  That’s maybe a minute a week that you’re looking at the budget, but you’re looking at it EACH WEEK (versus looking at it rarely or never now).
  2. You’re being a proactive budgeter.  You’re reviewing your budget BEFORE you go to the store, not afterwards, like with many other budgeting tools.
  3. Budgeting is a by-product of using the tool.  We talk about the anxiety of budgeting.  With FitFin, since the budget is just a part of the shopping cycle, it becomes a natural part of the process.  Our hope is that just by going into FitFin several times a week as you access your shopping list, you’re seeing your budget and spending as it happens in real time and naturally, so there are no big surprises.  The big surprises tend to happen when we don’t consistently look at our spending numbers.

As I stated before, I’m not budget guru. I’m a human being with real expenses, just like you. But what I’ve found is that by keeping a close watch on where my money goes and doing it consistently, I’ve eliminated a lot of the financial stress I used to have because as problems come up, I’m better equipped to fix them. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. FitFin gives me access to that knowledge, and I can get up to speed with things in mere seconds.

A good analogy that everyone can understand is getting into better physical shape. To do so, you have to watch what you eat and exercise on a regular basis. If you want to get in better financial shape, you want to watch what you spend, and look at your budget on a regular basis. FitFin gives you the tool to do both in a quick, natural way. If you haven’t checked it out, please go to www.fitfin.com. It’s free and it takes just seconds to sign up.

Here’s to your financial health!  And to chocolate and peanut butter!

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Are you a saver or a spender? Take the FitFin quiz to find out!

Knowing your natural tendencies when it comes to saving (or spending) money will help you better understand what it will take to reach your goals. Take the FitFin Save or Spend Quiz to see where you rank. We want you to answer each question twice: The first answer should be what pops immediately into your mind (your gut reaction). The second should be how you’d answer after giving the question some thought (your brain reaction). Score both the “Gut” and the “Brain” blank with either a, b, c, of d for each question. To give you the best chance at finding your natural tendencies, please be honest.

1. You find $20.00 lying on the sidewalk and no one is around who could have possibly dropped it. Do you:

a. Put it in your bank account/stuff it in your mattress
b. Put up a flyer announcing the lost money
c. Find the nearest store and buy something
d. Buy the next round

Gut ___ Brain ___

2. You’ve been dying to buy the _______, which normally costs $300.00. It’s now on sale for an amazingly low price of $100.00 (today only, of course!). The problem is that you check your account and you only have $50.00 in it. Do you:

a. Wave the white flag and leave the store, with a tear in your eye
b. Go back to your house to search for loose change in your couch
c. Get out your phone to see if there’s a cheaper price online that you may be able to get the store to match
d. Say screw it and put it on your credit card

Gut ___ Brain ___

3. You receive a $3,000.00 tax refund. Do you:

a. Put it in your IRA/similar product (or open one if you don’t have one)
b. Pay down debt
c. Make a list of things you might buy with it
d. Go on vacation

Gut ___ Brain ___

4. You need transportation. Do you:

a. Buy a bus/other public transportation pass
b. Buy a bicycle
c. Buy a used car
d. Buy/lease a new car

Gut ___ Brain ___

5. You need a new phone. Do you:

a. Buy a flip phone (not a smartphone)
b. Buy an older model smartphone that costs very little or is free with a service contract
c. Search places like Craigslist/eBay for a used model of the phone you want
d. Get the latest and greatest model, regardless of the cost

Gut ___ Brain ___

Now tally your answers for the Gut category. Assign a one point for every ‘a’ answer, two points for every ‘b’ answer, three points for every ‘c’ answer, and four points for every ‘d’ answer. Once done, do the same thing for the Brain category.

Answer Scoring (scale applies to both Gut and Brain answers, but use them separately)
1-5 You have natural savings tendencies (some call you cheap, but you know you’re wise and frugal)
6-10 You’re pretty good with your money, but sometimes like to splurge
11-15 Keep an eye on what you spend and maybe find an accountability partner to hold you in check
16-20 Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Note your scoring for both the Gut and the Brain categories.
Are they similarly low? Then you’re a saver (or at least have saving tendencies). Congratulations! Are they similarly high? You’re not a natural saver. You may need to work at saving, but you can do it! Is one high and one low? Consider which score is closer to the truth and make changes as necessary.

Thanks for taking the FitFin Savings Quiz. We hope you learned something about yourself when it comes to your natural views on saving money. Regardless of if you’re a saver or a spender, please check out http://www.FitFin.com for a great tool that can help you set up a budget and track it in literally seconds a day. Best of all, it’s FREE!

Simplifying the Complicated

At FitFin, we work hard to make things simple. Ironically, making them simple has been at times complicated. But we think it’s well worth it.

With FitFin, your budget doesn’t have to be complicated either. Our philosophy is simple: Everyone has three buckets of money:

1. Take-home pay – this is the money you bring home however often you get paid. This is your after-tax money to live on.

2. Fixed expenses – these are your expenses that consistently stay the same amount each month. Here are examples of what fixed expenses might include:

a. Rent/Mortgage
b. Insurance
c. Cable (for the most part)
d. Phone (for the most part)
e. Garbage
f. Utilities (for the most part)

These expenses don’t vary much, and if they do vary, make sure to estimate them high when creating a budget to ensure worst-case scenario spending.

3. Variable expenses – these expenses fluctuate month-to-month and are where most people get into trouble. These might include:

a. Groceries
b. Dining out
c. Gas/automotive
d. Entertainment (i.e. going to the movies)
e. Household expenses (i.e. home repair)

Consider this: You may have a $500.00 monthly grocery allowance, but if you’re not actively tracking it, you may be spending $700.00 and not even know it. That’s an extra $2,400.00 a year!

With FitFin, you can easily create budgets for all of these and any other categories you want to help you stay on top of your finances. Setting up a variable expense budget takes less than thirty seconds and is customizable to fit your needs.

Once your budget is set up based on the three categories above, track your expenses against your take-home pay. Try to have 10-20% of your pay leftover to go towards savings or to pay down debt. If you find it difficult to get to this percentage, do what you can. Two percent is better than zero percent or being in the red. But take a serious look at your expenses and try to find things you can cut back on. You’ll’be surprised at what you can reduce or eliminate altogether.

Be sure to remember expenses that are often forgotten, like gifts (birthday, holidays), travel, vehicle registration fees, and other expenses that may not occur monthly, like vehicle insurance (sometimes every six months), or life insurance (sometimes annual). Brainstorm every possible expense to ensure accurate budgeting.

FitFin has great FREE tools to help you set up your budget. Please visit http://www.FitFin.com to see just how simple we’ve made this historically complicated process. And if you like what we do, please let us know—and feel free to tell your friends and family, too.

Thank you for being a part of the FitFin Nation!

5 Things You’d Rather Do Than Review Your Budget

Budgeting ranks right up there with root canals and changing the wax seal under your toilet. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll found that only 1/3 of Americans even have a budget. Why is this? Because they’re not fun and exciting; they’re boring and, frankly, sometimes depressing. To prove my point, here are five things you’d probably rather do than look at your budget. Be honest—at least a few of these, if not all, are true.

  1. Clean the ________.  Fill in the blank with gutters, garage, sump pump—it doesn’t matter.  You’d rather clean it than review the finances.
  2. Call your Aunt Beulah.  You haven’t talked to her in ages, but suddenly have the urge to thank her for all those fruitcakes she sent you over the years.
  3. Start planning your thirty year reunion—even though it’s 23 years away.
  4. Catalog your VHS tapes.  This is a pressing matter you’ve been ignoring for years.  It’s killing you to know whatever happened to your Jim Varney’s Greatest Films collection and if it survived the four moves you’ve made across the country.
  5. Watch Cavemen re-runs.  Yes, it was a sitcom based on an insurance television commercial.  And yes, they only made thirteen episodes, six of which actually aired.  But all of the sudden, its compelling storyline grips you, keeping you from the budget that looms in the background.

So how’d you do? Were there at least a couple of things that sounded more appealing than your budget? Probably, and that’s okay, because budgeting hasn’t traditionally been much fun. Thankfully, FitFin is here to help. What is FitFin? Check out some of our cool features:

  • Make a working mini-budget (like a grocery or dining budget) in thirty seconds
  • Create a complete budget for your discretionary spending in about ten minutes
  • Track your budget in about ten seconds
  • Sync your budget with your shopping list so that you can see if you have money to spend before you go to the store
  • Never forget an item at the store again because everything you is now stored online and in your phone
  • Keep every shopping list for every store you shop at in one place—no more need for multiple apps, with multiple ways to make and use a list

We’ve taken something that’s traditionally been complicated and simplified it; we’ve made things that used to take hours now take minutes—or seconds! Why? Because although we think budgeting is necessary, we also know it doesn’t top your Fun List. Because, like you, we’d rather hang out with friends or watch a movie on a Saturday night than sit in front of the computer crunching numbers. That’s why we created FitFin. We’d rather run our finances than have them run us.

To see how easy budgeting and shopping with FitFin can be, check out www.FitFin.com.

Welcome aboard!