Two Checking Accounts Keep Bills and Spending In Check

Has anyone tried the two-checking account system? This is when you use one for bills and one for spending. It’s no different than earmarking savings accounts for different goals —vacation, car maintenance, emergency fund.

On Day 11, Tiffany “The Budgenista” Aliche prompted us to define our dollars by opening multiple accounts that day. Otherwise, you’ll have “gumbo money,” she said.

“When you have all of your money in one pot, you never know how what’s really happening. How much of this is for saving? How much for bills? How much for savings?”

Tiffany’s task couldn’t have come at a better time. While reading her prompt, I remembered that just minutes before I was calculating how much money I’d have left in my checking account after paying bills. It can be exhausting to think: “When this payment goes through, will I have enough money for the oil change, the hair appointment, gas, etc.?”

I already have multiple checking accounts (Big Bank, credit union and online bank), but two are tied to savings accounts that I don’t want to touch. I’m afraid if I start using those two checking accounts, then I’ll start transferring money from my savings. Don’t want that! The debit cards are out of sight and out of mind for that reason.

My main option is to open another checking account at the Big Bank. However, I’d need to directly deposit $250 each month or have a large average daily balance of more than $1,000 to avoid a $12 monthly fee. Decisions, decisions.

When you have all of your money in one pot, you never know how what’s really happening. How much of this is for saving? How much for bills? How much for savings? — Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche

Of course, I looked to the great wide Internet to find out how other people are using the two-checking account system for paying bills and discretionary spending. Some folks have it all figured out.

Here are some reasons to use two checking accounts for budgeting:

  1. You don’t worry about dipping into your bill money for discretionary spending.
  2. You can automate all of your bills and spend less time managing your money. You know the money will be there, so you can put your finances on autopilot.
  3. If forces you to be more frugal and save. You will be motivated to save as the money in your “Spending” checking account grows. Who wants to see it depleted all the time? Because the amount of money in the “Spending” account is finite (and not nebulous) and I can see exactly what’s left in the tank, then I’ll be forced to really think about what I’m spending.
  4. No overdrafts.

Great reasons, right? This system could really help me clear my mind and separate money for different purposes so spending doesn’t affect paying the bills.

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LIVE RICHER Challenge: Day 8 and Day 9

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche graciously allowed the LIVE RICHER Challenge to read Day One of her book, “The One-Week Budget”, to start Week Two of about budgeting and saving. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

curlsandmo-com-one-week-budgetIn the intro, she said, “There is a magic about money.” When money is not planned for, it disappears. When it’s well-documented and used wisely, it inexplicably multiplies for the for the skilled handler.

DING! DING! DING!

It’s not anything that I’ve learned before, but I loved how she put it.

Throughout the chapter, she described how her clients faltered financially. Until they wrote down their expenses in black and white, they didn’t understand the error of their ways.

So we also were tasked with creating “The Money List” with all of our expenses. Then we’d subtract it from our take-home pay. I’m going to run over my December numbers to see how I fared. Oh, boy!

Side note: I was talking to a gentleman caller yesterday, and he was talking about his goals for this year and the next. He traded in his gorgeous luxury car for a Toyota Camry to save himself $300 a month. I exclaimed, “Look at you being responsible, being a man!” I was so proud of him for making that decision. He said he wanted that car for a long, but after he got it, it lost it’s luster after a while. It reminded me of a few male financial experts I read. They, too, had to confront that monthly payment and their pride. Then they gave up the car to get ahead financially. It’s great to have met someone with a similar financial mindset.

LIVE RICHER Challenge: Day 1 and Day 2

The first week of January has been interesting. I’ve been making money moves.

On Friday the 2nd, I sat down and revisited the budget format from Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast. Budgeting is scary! OK, maybe not. I was trying to give every dollar a job and scared myself by almost getting down to $0, which wasn’t my intent. The zero-based budget is when income minus outgo equals zero. So in comes $3,000, and out goes $3,000 to saving, investing, paying bills, buying groceries, etc. I like having a little wiggle room, which is probably why I’m adverse to budgeting. I am going to run up my spending tab at the end of the month to see how I stack up to my budget. Should be interesting.

Live Rich(er), Die Trying

On Monday, I started in the 36-day LIVE RICHER Challenge started by Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche. Each day the participants must complete a task. The daily tasks will focus on the money theme of the week. The weekly themes are:

  • Week 1: Money Mindset
  • Week 2: Budgeting & Saving
  • Week 3: Debt
  • Week 4: Credit
  • Week 5: Investing & Insurance
  • Final Day: LIVE RICHER

Day One was about setting three main financial goals and sharing them with the rest of the Live Richer community or an accountability partner. Good thing I had already thought of mine. It was so great seeing all of the goals from fellow black women. They aim to do everything including raising their credit score by a certain number of points, save for a trip to Brazil, save for emergencies, increase their income and get out of debt. We have so much in common.

Today’s prompt prompted us to read “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse” in The Richest Man in Babylon book by George Clason. Then The Budgetnista requested that we share our favorite “cure” with the community, and how we’d use this “cure” to grow wealth.

I read the seven cures parable over my lunch break and was mesmerized. This book was first published in 1926. All of these principles for managing your finances still ring true. Amazing!

Trent Hamm explained the parable in The Simple Dollar (I’m too lazy to put in in my own words): “The tale “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse” relates a story about Arkad, the titular richest man in Babylon. He is requested by the king to teach a class to anyone who wishes to attend on the methods he used to build his wealth. He divides this class across seven days, with each day focusing on a particular method for saving money.”

Here are the seven principles:

  1. Start thy purse to fattening: Save 10 percent of your income.
  2. Control thy expenditures:  Budget, budget, budget! “Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings.”
  3. Make thy gold multiply: Invest. “Put each coin to laboring that it may reproduce its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring to thee income, a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy purse.”
  4. Guard thy treasures from loss: Invest wisely. “Guard thy treasure from loss by investing only where thy principal is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable, and where thou will not fail to collect a fair rental. Consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy treasure from unsafe investments.”
  5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment. Own your own home. “…I recommend that every man own the roof that sheltereth him and his.”
  6. Insure a future income. Get insurance. “He should plan certain investments or provision that may endure safely for many years, yet will be available when the time arrives which he has so wisely anticipated. … Provide for the needs of thy growing age and the protection of thy family.”
  7. Increase thy ability to earn. Make more money. “The more of wisdom we know, the more we may earn. …cultivate thy own powers, to study and become wiser, to become more skillful, to so act as to respect thyself.”

This story is chock full of gems.

Arkad on NOT over thinking it:

Deride not what I say because of its simplicity. Truth is always simple.

Arkad on knowing what’s important:

Which desirest thou the most? Is it the gratification of thy desires of each day, a jewel, a bit of finer, better raiment, more food; things quickly gone and forgotten? Or is it substantial belongings, gold, lands, herds, merchandise, income-bringing investments? The coins thou takest from thy purse bring the first. The coins thou leavest within it will bring the latter.

Arkad on debt:

He must pay his debts with all the promptness within his power, not purchasing that for which he is unable to pay.

Arkad on giving back:

He mush have compassion upon those who are injured and smitten by misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of thoughfulness to those dear to him.

Arkad on setting goals:

Preceding accomplishment must be desire. Thy desires must be strong and definite. General desires are weak longings. For a man to wish to be rich is of little purpose. For a man to desire five pieces of gold is a tangible desire which he can press to fulfillment.

Arkad on increasing earning potential and lifelong learning:

As a man perfecteth himself in his calling even so doth his ability to earn income.

Arkad on wants versus desires:

I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field wherever the farmer leaves space for their roots , even so freely do desires grow in men whenever there is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those that thou mayest gratify are but few.

SEEKING COUNSEL

After work, I saw my financial advisor and discussed my current outlook and goals. He lauded me on the decisions I’d made thus far and the fact that I paid off four small debts in 2014 and had a clear plan to rid myself of more debt. For my age, he said, I’m doing fine. Some folks have $30,000 in credit card debt, he said. Having a mindset to get rid of it as soon as possible is commendable.

The meeting was a great way to end the day. The future looks bright as long as I stick to the plan.

Hung up on clothes | First quarter reflection

I’m sitting here looking at three dresses on Target.com. They’re super cute. One – a flirty, mint green number – would be perfect for spring and summer. I could wear it to my cousin’s wedding over Easter weekend. The other is a simple elbow sleeve Little Black Dress. The third is a royal blue version of one of my favorite fall/winter dresses.

The total cost $60.80. They’re on sale, and shipping is free. Good deal, right?

I can’t deny it’s a good deal, but I can deny that they are necessities. They’re clearly wants. I already have three or four LBDs.

After the financial fast, I promised not to buy any clothes until April 1. I succeeded. Now, it’s April 8, and I can’t bring myself to buy the dresses. Then I said that I would not buy clothes unless they were high quality. I think they are.

But I could spend that $60 elsewhere. On a medical bill I didn’t expect to be so high. On reducing debt. On gas. On anything but these dresses. I have Michelle Singletary’s voice in my head saying, “If it’s on your ass, then it’s not an asset.”

I did perfectly fine wearing what was already in my closet from January to March. What is my hang-up now? Do I think the deal is so good that I have to get it? Do I think these dresses should be a reward for not shopping for three months?

This week, I started looking into the movement to work with a closet of 30 or so items. I was amazed at what these folks accomplished with a clean and lean closet. This woman’s capsule wardrobe of 33 items suited her just fine (pun intended). This woman’s minimalist wardrobe was full of fun pieces, including the Target dress I’m trying to get in blue.

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She wrote: “Wouldn’t it be great to open your closet and LOVE every single thing in there?  Yes, it would!  And we do that by filling it with just that – things we love, not things that are cute.”

If anything, I need to purge my closet. Not add to it.

I’ve done a lot over the first quarter to get on the right track. I’m grateful for those tiny successes – paying off a few charge cards, not using credit cards and amassing half of the $1,000 emergency fund.

But I need to do more.

I need to freelance more. I’m not really sticking to a budget as much as I’m tracking my expenses and not going all willy nilly with spending beyond my bills. The envelope system is looking pretty good right now.

Let’s see what this second quarter brings.

How “Saving is Like an Oak Tree” | Three Bucket System

This is the first week without attending the personal finances for women workshop with Teacher. It was only three weeks long. I knew the day would come, but still I loved hanging with the ladies.

In our penultimate session, we discussed savings strategies. Half of U.S. households don’t have $2,000 in case of emergencies or to cover the deductible on car and health insurance. I bet very few people seriously think about that when they choose the low premium, high deductible plan. I know I hadn’t until this year.

Teacher’s recommended savings strategy includes:

  1. Emergency savings
  2. Savings to Spend 
  3. Long-Term Savings

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As a financial advisor, she prefers that her clients to invest debt-free dollars. So she recommends filling up those three buckets first, then look into investment vehicles, like stocks.

“You always want your money to be making money,” she said, so always factor in APY rates and understand the wonder of compound interest (Well, it could work against you in terms of carrying debt.)

I was reading Dave Ramsey’s chapters on savings and investments simultaneously. His advice was the same on Teacher’s three savings buckets and understanding compound interest.

“Saving is like planting an oak tree,” Ramsey said. “You cannot keep pulling it up by the roots to check its progress.”

“Saving is like planting an oak tree. You cannot keep pulling it up by the roots to check its progress.” – Dave Ramsey

If anyone talks to you about a “guaranteed investment,” then RUN”, Teacher warned us. All investment comes with risks; there are no guarantees. That’s why it’s best to use debt-free dollars or the excess you have after filling up your three savings buckets.

Investment is for the long-term, so don’t go into it knowing there’s a possibility you’ll need money in a few months or so, Teacher said.

Then she went on to give the best analogies that I’ve ever heard in my life. She likened bonds to a window with one pane, and mutual funds to multi-pane window. If someone throws a rock into the single-pane window, then you have to replace the whole window. So if all of your money is in the Pepsi stock, then all of your investment goes down. If someone throws a rock into the multi-pane window, then you only need to replace one of them. With mutual funds, you have several investments – maybe Pepsi, Coca Cola, Apple, Facebook, Exxon and Twitter. If one goes down, then you could mitigate the risk with the others. Brilliant explanation!

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In the last session, we discussed asset protection a.k.a. insurance. Insurances transfers the risk if something happens to you, Teacher explained. She says your biggest asset is your ability to earn an income.

Can you afford not to have health insurance? The No. 1 cause of bankruptcy is medical reasons.

We went over the major types of insurance:

  1. Health
  2. Life
  3. Auto
  4. Home
  5. Disability
  6. Long-Term Care

I was super sad about this being our last session because we could have talked on and on about all of the nuances involved in insuring your asset. I’m so happy they she provided a great foundation on which to build our knowledge. I hope all four of her pupils leave better than they way we came.

We ended our time together with a group hug. I’m a hugger, not a fighter. Seriously, I love hugs. While we were encircled, I joked and said “Now, put your right foot in…” They giggled.

We left on a high note. We left with hope.

More Resources: Sente Mortgage’s Tips on Savings Buckets

Good Read: The “Three-Bucket System” for Managing Money

Thinking of house and home

On Thursday, my coworker and I returned to the personal finance workshop. We, along with our 55-year-old classmate, shared our goals with Teacher. Our goals varied as we’re all in different stages of our lives. There’s something special about putting your goals down on paper and out in the universe. When you share them, you feel more responsible and others can hold you more accountable.

Teacher encouraged me to dig deeper – to put target dates and monthly savings amounts next to each goal. My goodness! That’s going to be tough. I don’t know what car I’d like to buy in the next two years, let alone how much it costs.

In big letters above our goals, Teacher told us to write: “Am I willing to do what it takes?”

Hmmm…

Next, we jumped into credit.

Teacher said the recommended debt-to-income (DTI) ratio should be 15 percent or less. Right now, I’m at 20 percent. Then, I learned that I had been using APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and interest rate interchangeably. Of course, they’re not the same. The APR determines the amount of interest you accrue while keeping a balance on a credit card.

She blew our minds when we reviewed the formula credit card companies use to calculate your balance. Most companies use the average daily balance method, meaning that interest is compounded based on your daily balance.

Here’s what I gathered: Credit card companies will find a way to increase your balance every month. That, in turn, increases your interest. And if you continue to pay the minimum balance, then you’ll end up paying interest on interest and never really pay down the original balance. It’s the dreaded snowball effect. That’s why it seems to take so long to make a dent in the debt.

We all started to get mad at credit card companies and ourselves for not knowing this. You gotta pay attention to the fine print. And you gotta get mad enough and know the right information in order to make changes. Teacher continues to empower us with knowledge, and I’m so grateful.

House_with_Keys2After work, I attended a first-time homebuyer’s seminar with a realtor, a lender and a woman who runs a down payment assistance program through the city.

I sat with seven or eight other black women­ – some younger than me, but most a bit older. I could tell that most of us didn’t know where to start. The realtor didn’t know where to start either when she bought her home.

She earned her real estate license and closed on her own home at the encouragement of a relative who wanted to flip houses. That plan fell through, but the realtor now shares her experience with women with similar backgrounds. The realtor’s a young, black female who grew up in the projects, didn’t have role models who owned homes and didn’t have a high-paying job. But she had good credit and prayed to God that if she was going to be in a position to lose her home in the near future, then not to let her have it at all. Interesting, right? I, also, love the fact that she bought her home before meeting her husband.

The realtor spoke candidly and let the conversation flow freely. There was no PowerPoint (although she provided a handout in the goodie bag). We just asked whatever questions were on my mind. I asked about 20.

  • What’s this acronym? What’s that acronym?
  • How do you get started? (Check your credit score, and call her.)
  • How much money should you have in the bank in order to qualify for a loan? (3.5 percent of the mortgage)
  • Which credit score do lenders consider during pre-qualification? (The middle score of the three from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The seminar instructors recommended using IdentityGuard.com instead of sites like CreditKarma.com.)
  • What makes up a mortgage payment? (Principle, Interest, Taxes and Insurance = PITI).

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  • Why should anyone even own a home? How does it appreciate in value, especially in this current climate? (You do it for security, to own your little piece of Earth.)
  • What are all of the costs involved in owning a home? (For starters, think about your monthly mortgage payment, insurance, maintenance and landscaping.)
  • What should you housing-to-income ratio be? (No more than 30-35%.)

Many of the other ladies had similar questions. The realtor answered them all with a straightforward, Southern sensibility to which could all relate.

My parents have never talked to me about home ownership, and I always lived in an apartment, so I didn’t know the first thing about it. But I left the seminar feeling enlightened and empowered. I’m going to continue to increase the knowledge and interest I have in owning a home. Maybe it won’t happen within a year, but it’s best to start planning now.

(Great resource: Wells Fargo My FirstHome interactive learning experience)