Tools to Help You Budget in 2013

New year, new budget!  For many, the new year brings a fresh start to managing your finances.  Budgeting is one of the most popular resolutions made.

There are many tools available to help you meet your financial goals, so many that it can be overwhelming. 

I’d like to share a couple of tools with you that I personally use (and have used for quite some time).

1.  Credit Sesame:  This service provides you with an instant view of your credit report and score.  It also sends you email notifications if the score changes so that you can stay on top of things.

This free service was developed at Stanford University and even includes tools to help lower your debt. 

2.  ManillaManilla is a free service that allows you to manage everything in one place.  You can track all of your accounts, utilities, loyalty cards, subscriptions, rewards cards, and more. 

You can elect to receive text and/or email reminders when a bill is due, subscription is expiring, and other financial changes.

3.  Budget and Bills Printable Planner:  As techie as I am, I still prefer writing important things down on paper.  It helps me remember easier, I can see the whole picture, and it’s always accessible.  This printable set is my favorite!

Both of these have made my hectic life MUCH easier!  They are both secure and extremely safe to use.

Budgeting Question: How do you handle unexpected medical expenses?

medical

Medical bills are one of the main reasons that many families are in financial turmoil.  We’ve had our fair share of medical bills (helicopters aren’t cheap!), and I’m blessed to have a husband that works his tail off for our insurance.

It seems that we can sometimes go a long time between doctor’s appointments, but if one of us goes, it’s like opening the flood gates.  My husband had to go Monday afternoon for a couple of spider bites.  Tuesday, both kids had dentist appointments, and Katie had to see her pediatrician for some stomach issues.  We headed straight to Ethan’s baseball game, where he took a wild pitch off of his wrist. 

My husband definitely needed to go, I can’t buy those meds at Dollar General. I consider dental cleanings an investment.  Katie received a prescription for Zantac- an OTC medication.  Ethan’s wrist was not broken, thank goodness.  We were already in town and urgent care was the same co-pay as the pediatrician. 

Two of these trips could have been avoided- but sometimes it’s better safe than sorry.  However, it makes me sick to have to spend $100 on copays within 24 hours.  I am setting up a copay savings account in my ING Direct account today!

I highly recommend setting up a savings account with ING Direct. ING Direct is one of the largest online banks in the country. One of their perks is that they allow you to set up unlimited FREE, interest-bearing savings accounts. You can name each account whatever you’d like and set up automatic transfers to each one. ING will then transfer the amount of money you chose on the date or cycle specified. After a couple of weeks, you won’t even notice this transaction!

The more effortless you make saving, the easier it is to put money away. There’s a pretty good chance that if you have to go to the bank, call them, or even log in to your online banking each week to make a deposit into savings, you will never get around to putting the money into that account.

But I already have a savings account at my local bank. Why do I need this?

· By keeping your savings separate, you are less likely to dip into them.

· ING accounts draw a higher interest rate than most banks.

· Your bank may not offer automatic deposits into your savings account.

· You may transfer your ING funds back to your bank at any time, but it takes 2-3 days for the transaction to process. This will prevent you from making impulse purchases with these funds. Studies show that up to 90% of all purchases would not be made if the customer was to go home and ‘sleep on it’ before making a purchase.

Still leery about having your money ‘two days away’? You can apply for a debit card. NOTE: This is only for the strongest willed shoppers. If you are dead-set on getting a debit card with them, lock the pin number and the card up immediately so that you don’t have instant access to it. By leaving it behind while shopping, you will curb impulse purchases and still retain instant access to your account.

To sign up for an ING Direct account, visit this secure address: http://www.thesensiblefamily.com/ingdirect

Do you add room in your budget for copays and unexpected prescriptions?  Is this a common expense for you?  Let us know how you handle it in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your responses and ideas on how to cut copay costs!

Looking for a great budgeting system?  Check out our Budget and Bills printable set on Etsy.  Get a copy of my personal budgeting set for just $4 this week!