I have been terrible at managing my money ever since I got my first bank account in my teens. If it’s not coins and notes in my wallet, I’ve no clue how much I actually have and where and when I’ve spent it. It has only been in the last decade that I’ve finally started to get a handle on things, mainly because I no longer had a full-time job. I moved my money around to various bank accounts as the interest rates changed, to try and make sure what I have was working as hard for me as possible, but that is getting harder to do now. Moving debt onto 0% credit cards has helped too, though I don’t do a good enough job of tracking my spending.
I’ve tried a few solutions over the years, but they both suffered due to changes to how UK financial institutions controlled online access to account data, which meant they weren’t working a lot of the time. More to the point, I was still getting occasional nasty surprises, which caused me lots of anxiety.
This year, I knuckled down and made a plan to pay off all my remaining credit card debt by the end of 2021. That plan has worked and the end is in sight, so now I need to get ahead of the curve for once and start planning ahead so I know how my finances are doing.
I’m currently doing a trial with You Need A Budget (YNAB), which I’d heard about before but not really considered as it’s decidedly US-centric. However, it got positive reviews from folks over on Micro.blog, and Which? Magazine rates it highly too, so I decided to take the plunge. Ironically, the fact that it doesn’t support direct import of data from my accounts here in the UK is a plus, because it forces me to manually enter figures. And its use of categories is less automated and more hands-on, meaning I have to put thought into how much money I assign to each one for the month.
I now have an initial budget done, and for the first time in ages I don’t have any nagging worries about where money is going. I have some forward planning in place, mainly towards paying off the remaining credit card debt and putting money aside for some upcoming bills. YNAB isn’t a free service, but I don’t mind paying for it if it continues to help me stay on top of my finances. (I was pleased to see that they don’t load their site with trackers, which makes a pleasant change.)