Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Do I Do All Day? I Obsess over Our Finances

(Photo credit: Tax Credits)
This is the eighth in a series of posts about how a disabled person like me passes the time at home, now that I no longer work.
To say that I obsess over our finances may be too harsh. I’ll describe what it is I do, and you can decide what to call it.
My primary tool for managing our finances is a program called Quicken. I have 18 separate accounts in Quicken, including: savings, checking, cash, PayPal, various credit cards, mortgage, auto loan, etc. I periodically reconcile these accounts against statements from the various financial institutions. I don’t dread this activity. In fact it often leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside. The spending and income within those accounts is broken into approximately 80 categories like: Kim salary, automobile repairs, clothes, groceries, natural gas, Zach tuition, retirement plan contributions, federal taxes, etc.
Okay, obsess is beginning to feel more and more appropriate. But I’m just getting started.
I track additional aspects of our loans and investments, and our gas and electricity usage separately in Excel spreadsheets. Sometimes Quicken just doesn’t give me the level of detail that I desire (after all, I need to justify that MBA I spent years of night school completing).
I pay all of our bills electronically, using a variety of methods. In recent years I finally succeeded in ditching the traditional checkbook. That’s a good thing, since I am unable to write with a pen anymore, other than scribbling my name illegibly on the signature line.
In recent months I’ve had the pleasure of helping Amy manage her student loans, which will enter repayment status soon. I’ve offered to furnish her with her own copy of Quicken, but so far she hasn’t shown an interest.
Once a year, about this time, I also compile something I call “The Sturgeon Family Annual Report.” In this document I summarize income, spending, cash flow, insurance, loans, net worth, and more. Why do I do this? First, I can’t imagine how any family could keep its financial house in order without a periodic look at the big picture. Second, this report becomes available for Kim’s information if I should die, or for our kids information if we should both die. Third, it’s just great fun.
Fun? Sure. For example, because of this analysis I know exactly how much money we spent at our local pub, The Snow Squall, last year (only $979, it was an off year), or at Trader Joe’s ($551). Because of my obsession, I also know how much we spent on clothes ($1,359) and veterinary bills ($1,116).
I rely heavily upon this information whenever we face important financial decisions. However, I don’t use this data to manage or control our day-to-day spending. I don’t develop or attempt to enforce household budgets. We are both frugal by nature, Kim more than I, and so I don’t need to do much along those lines. I’m like Jane Goodall studying the great apes. I find our behaviors fascinating, but I only observe. I rarely engage.

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  1. Great post Mitch! Should have known you would be busting out the Excel charts.

    In some respects it would be nice to have all the financial minutiae we create in our daily lives collected and reported automatically but then in other regards it would be a bit creepy and a large security target.

    Until then, Quicken and Excel to the rescue.

  2. I don't handle the finances here -- too boring, and I hate working with numbers. You seem to make all of it a fun job, though.

  3. Darren, I'm glad you liked it. Yes, the future holds the dichotomy you describe – easy access to our own personal information, but with security risks. Personally, I look forward to the challenge.

    Muffie, I understand that not everyone has my disease, and I'm not talking about MS :-)

  4. Hi Mitch,
    Here's one of the things I do:
    I send and receive emails from friends and family.
    Here's one I thought I'd share.

    Stay Young My Friend

    We all need to read this one over and over until it becomes part of who we are.


    1.. Try everything twice.
    On one woman's tombstone she said
    she wanted this epitaph:
    "Tried everything twice.
    Loved it both times!"

    2. Keep only cheerful friends.
    The grouches pull you down.
    (Keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches!)

    3. Keep learning:
    Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever...
    Never let the brain get idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.'
    And the devil's name is Alzheimer's!

    4. Enjoy the simple things.

    5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
    And if you have a friend who makes you laugh,
    spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.

    6.. The tears happen:
    Endure, grieve, and move on.
    LIVE while you are alive.

    7. Surround yourself with what you love:
    whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever..
    Your home is your refuge.

    8. Cherish your health:
    If it is good, preserve it.
    If it is unstable, improve it.
    If it is beyond what you can improve, get help (or learn to adjust).

    9. Don't take guilt trips..
    Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, to a foreign
    country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

    10. Tell the people you love
    that you love them, at every opportunity.

    I love you, my special friend!

    11. Forgive now those who made you cry.
    You might not get a second chance..

    And if you don't send this to at least 4 people - who cares?
    But do share this with someone.

    Lost time can never be found.

    Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is
    fighting some kind of battle.

    Wine does not make you FAT .... it makes you LEAN ....

    (against tables, chairs, floors, walls and ugly people.)
    Too funny!!!!