The free tool that keeps me financially safe

I’m going to admit that April has been a very costly month for me. I’ve paid out more this month than I ever have, minus the down payment on our current home. It was especially bad last week when my tax payment came out of my bank account. It’s never a good Monday morning when you wake up to see many thousands dropping out of your bank account. To be honest, if this had happened four years ago when I was still in debt, I wouldn’t have made it. I probably would have been financially ruined and gone through bankruptcy.

The good news is that isn’t happening now, nor do I project it to. The reason is I have budgeted my butt off to make sure I had enough money to cover my taxes and the other expenses I accrued. See, we are completely finishing our basement. We have to due to the birth of our second child coming up in July. Since I work from home, I’m getting kicked out of my current office and am building one in the basement. This is necessary since we don’t have any more rooms on our main floor.

Before I discuss what tool has helped me stave off financial disaster, let me discuss what is going on a little bit and how I’ve worked with this free tool to make sure I have more than enough money to cover my expenses.

You’ve Got to Plan

Planning it my forte. My wife might get a little upset with me sometimes due to my planning, but it’s not because I don’t plan, it’s because I plan too much. I go over every detail and come up with contingency plans just in case the other plans don’t work. It can be frustrating living with me, so I’ll continue to love her for staying sane. People who plan every detail can be a frustration. Trust me, I would hate to be around me sometimes.

For a few years, we have always known we wanted a second child. My son is going to four this year, so we thought it was a good time. We started discussing it more last year, but we knew we would need another room for an office. This was before I quit my job, but since I have side hustled for a number of years, an office is still a necessity for me. I make money blogging and helping bloggers, so I need a space to still do that. We have (almost can say had) an unfinished basement, so we started working toward being able to finish that up.

While I had my job last year, I socked away everything I made on the side with my blog and my tech service business. I had a really good year in 2015 and I’m proud of that. It enabled us to save enough money to pay for a basement remodel without using any loans. We have paid it all in cash. The downside of that is I had to horde cash for a long time and couldn’t put it away in retirement, thus increasing my tax bill tremendously. It hurts a bit when you have two jobs that pay well as it puts you in a very high tax bracket.

Four years ago while I was finishing up my debt payments, paying this much money would have bankrupted us for sure. There would be no way I would have this type of money when I was in debt, but my financial life has changed considerably since I paid off my debt and started this blog. It’s crazy how starting a blog can change your life, but it certainly did mine. I’m thankful everyday for what this blog has given me and what it continues to provide. It’s crazy.

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For the past four years (in July) since I paid off my debt, my financial life has exploded in a good way. I could never have imagined what has happened. I can thank my hard work and dedication to change my life around, but also for the help of others giving me advice. I also have to give credit to one free tool that has allowed me to get a big financial picture of everything going on and keeping me on track. Without this tool, this basement upgrade and having a baby would have killed me financially.

The Free Tool that Keeps Me Going Financially

Ever since I dropped my debt, I looked for tools and resources that could help me propel my money and start controlling every aspect of my cash. I discovered Betterment right after I paid my credit cards off and it has changed my investing approach. Right after that, I found Personal Capital, which is the free tool I’m talking about here. It’s similar to Mint.com (with some major exceptions) and 100% free!

For the past three and a half years, I’ve been using Personal Capital to keep track of all my money, my investments, and my assets. What I really like about it is they don’t fill their dashboard with ads and promotions like Mint does. You don’t see credit card recommendations or how to save more on your mortgage by doing a refinance. It’s clean and just about your money.

Related Read: Check out my Personal Capital review

Ever since I signed up for my free account, it has helped me understand a deeper detail about my money, my spending, and my cash flow. It’s very enlightening for sure and what has enabled me to budget correctly for taxes and paying for a basement remodel all with cash I saved up.

Since I have at least four bank accounts at different institutions, I need Personal Capital to keep me on point. It’s so easy and intuitive to get started and look at your money in a big picture kind of way.

Another thing I really like is they send me snapshots each Sunday to tell me how I did this week compared to last month and how my finances are doing in general. Unfortunately for me, the email I got yesterday would have given me a heart attack a few years ago. Yesterday, I just laughed (and cried a little) and kept going with my day. Here is what I go yesterday.

Weekly snapshot from Personal Capital

For most people, seeing you’ve spent almost $50,000 in one moth would make them throw up, but I have gone to great lengths to budget for this. I’m prepared for dropping this month cash, but it still doesn’t take the sting out. Trust me. No one likes to spend $50,000 in one month (over $20k in one week), but as long as you plan, have the cash, and can recover from it, then it shouldn’t scare you.

See, these are one-time transactions. I won’t be doing the basement again (I surely hope not) and I won’t be paying that much in taxes again, but I had to this year due to the amount of money I needed to get this done. While I could have taken out a personal loan for some of this (I checked this site for rates), I didn’t want to. I wanted to pay cash and have no debt. This was a big accomplishment for me and my wife and we are excited to have the ability to do so.

I’m really glad I found a free tool like Personal Capital to help me out through these financially draining times. There isn’t a different tool I’d rather use and why I classify Personal Capital as my favorite resource. You can use Mint as well, but I just hated the ads and constant emails telling me to refinance this or that. I just want info and don’t want all that clutter in my dashboard.

If you’re looking for something to help you get better control of your money and provide you with the detail you need to see how your money is doing overall, then I’d recommend you check out Personal Capital. It’s free and there is no credit card to sign up. I haven’t paid anything in nearly four years and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

What free tool would you use to keep track of all your money? Have you tried Personal Capital?