Resolution #3: Get your finances under control!

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First of all, Happy New Year!

This is probably the most difficult of the new year’s resolution series for me (not directly mental health related), but I think maybe one of the most important- finances. I think along with losing weight (blog #3 in this series), getting out of debt and getting finances under control is a frequently made resolution. There are so many apps out there that it is difficult to know where to start in terms of reviews.

A first step, an app which you probably already have is the app for your own bank. A lot of these online services have bill pay, the ability to input upcoming bills, and make budgets. However, if you feel you need something else, consider one of the other apps.

I like Mint (www.mint.com), which is free. I used to use Quicken, which I loved, and Quicken is mostly replaced now by Mint. Mint can sync with your bank, credit cards, investments, and give you an up-to-date idea of your finances. You get a free credit score with them, and the app will help you make budgets and financial goals. You can get emails and notifications when you are behind in your goals, or over your budget. It can be hard to plan forward, however, with Quicken, because though it does have the ability to input expenses which have not cleared your bank, it isn’t always the best at recognizing the expense once it does clear- creating a double entry. Also, you have to be a little vigilant about making sure that your expenses are going in the right budget categories, though it mostly gets them correct. There is an Apple Watch version, too.

If you’re planning to use the Dave Ramsey method of financial management, but want to use your ATM card still, I found You Need A Budget to be very helpful (www.youneedabudget.com). The apps are free, but they sync to the desktop version, which is $50 per year. This one lends itself to the idea of the envelopes of cash earmarked for a specific purpose very well, and also syncs to your bank. The YNAB on-line bulletin board community is very active/helpful, and their customer service was quite good. A friend who paid off all his debt through the Dave Ramsey method also sings the praises of this app as well. There are free classes (budgeting, debt reduction, etc) via their website and I think this app has more of an educational angle, so if you’re clueless where to start, this can be a good place, along with bankrate.com, to get some information. There’s no Apple Watch app.

If you’re interested in trying to get control of your finances, but prefer the low-tech method, I also like the templates from www.vertex42.com. They have some great forms to use for budgeting and money management. When I need a calendar or spreadsheet for budgeting, this is usually my first stop.

I’m interested in what other people use for financial management- let me know in the comments below! There are so many apps, I would love your input!

The New Year’s Resolution series

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This is the first of a series on New Year’s Resolutions. My intention is to start with making more effective New Year’s Resolutions, troubleshoot why they might not have worked in the past, and how we can get better at tracking and achieving them. Then, I’m hoping to do blogs on common resolutions themselves (lose weight, run, get out of debt, etc), and the apps and techniques which could help.

Why write about New Year’s Resolutions? This is the time when everyone has a clean slate, and is thinking about making changes anyway. The best reason for me is that I believe in the power we all have to change our lives in a thoughtful way. As a psychiatrist, it is such an incredible privilege to help patients help themselves in changing their lives!

Let’s talk about what makes a good resolution.

  • A resolution is written down, and you review it frequently.
  • You have multiple important reasons for wanting to achieve these resolutions, and you’ve written those down as well.
  • The resolution is measurable and well-defined.
  • You have a way of monitoring the resolution.
  • You know the next step.
  • You don’t have too many resolutions you can’t really keep track of more than 2 or 3 at a time. That’s not to say you don’t have more, but you’re concentrating on only a few at the time.
  • How will you be accountable for your goal?

Here’s an example. Instead of “lose weight,” I will choose a target carefully. Here’s where the well-defined part comes in: do I really want to lose weight, or be more fit, or both? Might I better define this as “fit in my size eight Lucky Jeans” or some fitness goal? What is a healthy, obtainable weight, and does my goal align with this in the first place?

Starting resolution: I will lose weight.

Optimized resolution: I will lose 10 lbs by April 1, 2017.

1.   Why: because I want to look my best, demonstrate a healthy lifestyle for my kids, and         not get diabetes.

2.   Measure: Using the Lose It! app, weighing myself one time per week. I will participate in an online group for weight loss and post my progress weekly.

3.   How: Logging foods with a 500 kcal deficit daily, exercise three times per week, reducing junky carbs and eating 5 servings of vegetables daily.

4.   Next Step: Download Lose it! App.

You can see why this would be a more powerful resolution. For more resources for goal setting, I like Michael Hyatt’s website, the Asian Efficiency Website, and the 7 Habits for Highly Effective People  by Stephen Covey is very helpful!

Please join me next time for tips on troubleshooting goals, and what apps to use to track your new resolutions!