My personal financially philosophy used to be pretty simple, “If I have money, I’ll spend it. If not, I won’t!”
I was always able to earn money, but I didn’t know how to keep track of that money. I never had control of my finances and at one point had a credit score of 550.
As a man, you must control your money. Money gives you freedom and money gives you options.
It took me several years to achieve “money mastery,” and indeed I’m still learning.
Right now I’m able to travel the world while earning a living. I also have sterling credit. (I even included a copy of my most recent credit scores.) That’s not bragging, it’s just reality.
That said, I had to take a lot of hard knocks to get where I am today.
There are three steps you can take immediately to take control of your personal finances.
- 1. Start using Mint.Com.
- 2. Monitor your credit for free.
- 3. Educate yourself.
“Money is like oxygen. Without it, you’ll die.”
Men are under attack. You could lose your job for offending the wrong person. Even tenured professors are not safe.
There are some simple and free ways to start figuring your money out.
1. Mint.Com is a simple, free way to track your spending.
Mint.com is free. With Mint.com, you enter in all of your bank accounts, credit card accounts, student loan accounts, and bills.
It takes a while to set everything up properly. You’ll need to itemize a few transactions until the computer learns what a merchant means. (For example, “CO-OP” is a grocery story. I had to manually note that a $54.98 transaction was for a grocery store. Eventually Mint.com learns these things.)
The best thing Mint.com does it track your spending per month. I was spending way more each month than I had realized.
Mint.com will also send you reminders when your bills are due and will send you alerts when a bank account is approaching a low balance. Mint.com will even remind you when you’re spending beyond your pre-set budget.
2. Monitor Your Credit with Free-Credit Tracking Services.
There are three main credit reporting agencies in the United States – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These credit reporting agencies monitor the amount of credit in your name. A car loan, credit car, or home mortgage is an example of your open lines of credit.
Credit agencies also track your payment history, your late payments, and even judgements and tax liens. They issue what’s called a “credit report,” which is sort of like a report card grading you on your financial responsibility.
Some banks examine your credit report from one or even all three credit agencies, although it seems Equifax is the one most lenders rely on.
You do not have to pay for a copy of your credit report.
Go to Annual Credit Report.
By law you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from reach of the three agencies. (There are three main credit reporting agencies that lenders rely upon before extending credit.) Go to AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report. DO NOT sign up with any other “free credit report” companies and never enter a credit card number in order to obtain a copy of your credit report.
Credit Sesame is a free credit monitoring site.
You load up your info, answer a few questions, and you’ll be given a credit score and your credit history.
You can model your credit score, estimating how it will rise and fall based on whether you pay off a credit card, pay off a student loan, or miss a payment.
Credit Karma is another free credit-monitoring service.
Credit Karma will give you access to your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores.
(This is what my TransUnion and Equifax credit scores looks like in CreditKarma.)
Credit Karma vs Credit Sesame?
I use Credit Sesame and Credit Karma, as both websites are easy to use.
However, I prefer using CreditKarma to Credit Sesame because no one is sure what scoring method Credit Sesame uses when calculating my credit score.
3. Educate Yourself.
There are several posts on Danger & Play covering personal finance. Read them.
- Money: Master the Game
- Personal Finance Podcast: Making and Saving Money
- Personal Finance Podcast: Finding Financial Freedom
- Tax and Retirement Planning
- How to Repair Bad Credit
Buy a book on personal finance – the Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.
Some people don’t like Dave Ramsey’s message because he’s a Christian. I’ll learn something from any source and he offers straightforward advice that any man can put to good use. His $20 book will pay for itself several hundreds or thousands of times.
5. You. What’s your advice? If you have any links to useful sources, post them in the comments.