I created my first real budget in early 2005 or so. I had no clue what I was doing, but with a newborn, I knew we had to start reigning in our spending. My wife and I almost arbitrarily came up with numbers of what we wanted to spend on groceries, gas, going out to eat, etc., not really knowing what we’d spent in the past. I had every intention of watching our spending going forward and assessing those numbers against the budget I’d set up.
It never happened. Not once. I take that back—it kind of happened once and it almost happened several other times, but I didn’t look at things monthly like I’d originally planned.
Then in 2009 I tried it again. This time newborn twins were the catalyst. Going from one to three kids overnight was motivation to give it another whirl. Again, I had no track record of what we’d spent month after month, and again, I arbitrarily came up with budget numbers. I stressed with what software to use and after dabbling in a couple of products, I settled on using my own spreadsheet.
This worked great! For about two months. Then I stopped. Why? Because I’d remember to look at my numbers at the most inconvenient times, like when I was watching Desperate Housewives with my wife (yes, I watched and enjoyed Desperate Housewives!). But I’d also remember about my budget when watching the Broncos game or swimming laps. Despite best efforts to work the budget into a routine, I failed.
The reason is because I had no routine! I was a father of twins, and as anyone with kids knows, life with young children is unpredictable. And exhausting! I knew I had to figure out something, but didn’t know what to do.
Then this idea for what became FitFin popped into my head at Target. I’d just placed a box of diapers into the cart, looked at my shopping list, and a crazy idea of using a shopping list with a budget just appeared. I have no idea why, but I was curious.
That night I sat down at my computer and “sketched” out screenshots of what it might look like using Excel. I created several layouts and almost immediately thought that having lists with prices would make sense, as it would allow me to compare the list's estimated total to a budget. I worked on it the whole night, obsessed with the thought, and came up with what I thought was a decent idea.
I told my wife about it the next day and showed her the screens. She smiled and said it looked good, but part of me knew that she was thinking, You must be crazy. And in fairness to her, I was (and still am).
I knew I was onto something, but wasn’t sure what.
Fast forward five-and-a-half years. Now mobile dominates the world. At the time, I’d never even heard of a smartphone, even though they’d been around for two years. What I didn’t realize then (and frankly why I believe FitFin works so well now) is that with FitFin, budgeting is situational. What I mean is that I review my budget whenever I use my shopping list, whether it’s using it to shop at the store or adding items to it throughout the week. I can know in less than ten seconds exactly what’s happening with it, so I don’t have to let it nag me when I’m swimming laps or watching TV. I also add expenses (including saving a digital copy of my receipt) right in a store’s parking lot. I don’t have to worry about it again! It’s completely situational and natural. There is no disrupting my routine to budget because it takes seconds and then it's done. It all happens when it’s supposed to happen for 10-30 seconds at a time. There are other services out there that work great. Some that will even send you a reminder email to review your budget. But we all know that such an email will probably get lost in the hundreds of other emails you get each day. With FitFin, you deal with it when it makes sense and forget about it!
The real beauty of this process is that it’s constant, meaning I see my budget almost every day because I add milk or other items to my list each day. Since my FitFin opens to my budget page anyway, I can glance at it for ten seconds to see what's going on. That's all it takes. Ten seconds a day, that’s maybe a minute a week, or about an hour a year.
An hour a year doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. The great thing about it, though, is that since I see it constantly, there’s no surprises. I know what’s going on with my budget all the time! Compare that to trying unsuccessfully for nearly ten years, and It’s liberating to say the least!
We’ve been using FitFin for nine months, and in that time, we’ve learned so much about our spending habits. We’ve been able to fix some of bad habits we were doing and are working on others. Had it not been for FitFin, we still wouldn’t have clue one about what we’re spending each month. Or each day, for that matter.
I’m very excited to have brought FitFin into the world, and am working on ways to make it even better. I urge you to try it if you haven’t done so yet. The knowledge you gain about your spending will be worth the miniscule amount of time you invest.