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  • Katherine Powers

Getting Your Money Under Control, Step 2: Determine your Starting Line


Hey guys, this is part two on my series on getting your money under control. It’s recommended that you start here.


Now that you have an idea of where you are going, now its time to determine your starting point. You cannot effectively make a plan to get from “A” to “B” if you don’t know where your “A” is, you have to know where you’re at! Honestly, this is probably the scariest part for most of us; simply facing the truth can seem like a total nightmare. You may have collections accounts that have been hanging over you for years. You might have maxed out some credit cards when you were 18 and never paid them. You might have student loans in deferment. Or, you might be like me and have suffered through the real estate market during the bubble burst of 2008-2011, and have a short sale or foreclosure on your record. You might have all of the above.


Honestly, when it comes to finances, it isn’t uncommon to make like an ostrich and stick our heads in the sand than to face the facts of our poor financial health, but that has to stop now! Your finances cannot fix themselves. But, there is good news in this. Absolutely no financial situation is beyond repair. Period. But really, in order to repair it and work towards all those amazing long-term goals you set last week, you need to be honest with yourself and get the full picture. You’d be surprised at how much better you’ll feel after taking this one simple step.


So, that’s it. That’s this week’s task. Not so bad right? And get this, after trying many different options out, I have found a few free online tools that help me keep an eye on the big picture.


mint.com – This is an AMAZING site owned by Intuit (same company that makes Quickbooks). I discovered this 4 years ago, and now I honestly couldn’t live without it. Here, you can follow your credit score (Equifax), link ALL your bank accounts, ALL your credit cards, ALL your loan accounts, and All your investment accounts. You can also track your assets (cars and houses) using online valuation tools (zillow.com, autotrader.com etc). Once everything is linked up, you get a full picture of your total debt, income, and net worth. From there, you can also set up a monthly budget (you can use this in place of the envelope system Dave Ramsey talks about), and it tracks each expense as you go through the month automatically. So, really, it takes minimal effort to keep up on it once you’ve set yourself up.

Student Loans Auto Loans Mortgage Accounts Credit Cards Bank Accounts IRA or 401K Accounts

creditkarma.com – This is one of many sites where you can get a copy of all the items that are on your credit report, but I like this one specifically because it is truly free. Although mint.com does allow you to follow your credit score, this one allows you to see in detail all the items on your report, AND has an easy button for disputing items that are invalid or out of date – making FIXING your credit way easier (this will be imperative for the next step). It only pulls from two of the 3 main credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax), but, it will show you everything that these companies include on your report (which most likely is the same as Experian). It also gives you a score that you can track, but it won’t necessarily show you what your score would be according to a mortgage lender. It’s most helpful to see how your score improves over time as you begin getting rid of collection accounts and paying credit cards down.

Gather all other bills/private debt/etc. – Finally, open an excel sheet and start making a list of all other bills and debts you cannot track online. For example, the $3,500 you borrowed from your parents for a down payment on your car, past due tax payments, or the $1200 emergency room bill from your broken ankle. This exercise is bound to take a few hours, but by the end of it, you will have a very clear picture of your starting point. Be proud of yourself after this point; although it might be painful, you have made the decision to take control of your finances, spend intentionally, and manage your money responsibly, you are one HUGE step closer towards financial freedom. Just this step alone is bound to make you feel much better.

So there you have it. Stick to these tools, get a realistic picture of where you stand, and stay tuned for part three, coming soon. Thanks guys!

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