How Personal Finance Manager (PFM) Can Change Your Life
Over the past several years, as my career has advanced, I've experienced something I think most Americans can relate to, expense creep. When we first fly the nest and set out on our own, we're typically working an entry-level job making just enough to cover the bills, probably living with a roommate and maybe having a little fun on the weekend. I was there, and it was a fun time, but I watched my money like a hawk. I had to.
As time went by, I moved out of that entry-level job, gained experience, advanced my career and my income increased. I slowly found myself paying less attention to my finances. I wasn't worried about paying the bills. Going out to eat was an option when I didn't feel like cooking, not the once in a while treat. Vacations changed from hostels to hotels, and then even to nicer hotels (pre-COVID world). I was living the young professional's dream. What I didn't realize is I was still spending all my money, but it wasn't just to cover the bills. I was spending frivolously and didn't have much to show for all my hard work. I needed to make a change. I needed the dreaded b-word: a budget.
At first, I started by using several sticky notes, which was about as organized as you can imagine. Then, I moved to a spreadsheet. This worked but was labor-intensive. Finally, I found the holy grail: the Personal Finance Manager.
Personal Finance Manager, or PFM, is an account aggregator. That means you can view all your accounts in one place, no matter what bank you have accounts with. Your checking, credit cards, mortgage and even your retirement accounts all show up with one login. This made staying on top of my accounts a breeze. I was able to see my balance and transactions no matter which card I grabbed to pay the grocery store bill
I thought this was a great system, but then I noticed something better. The PFM was tracking all my expenses and lumping them into categories. Suddenly I knew how much I was spending on bills, take out and even streaming services. This was a game-changer. When I was exploring this really cool feature, I was horrified to find that despite my grocery store bills, I was still spending too much going out to eat. That's when I noticed another feature (they're everywhere!): automatic budgets. It's all coming full circle. I can see my accounts, where my money is going, and now with the click of a button I can set reasonable limits on those categories. The budget tool automatically created realistic budgets based on my current habits, and it even notifies me when I'm going overboard.
While it doesn't always stop me from my amateur food critic antics, it does let me know when I'm going too far and makes me think twice about that third meal out in a row. With my new attitude towards money and a gentle reminder, I'm handling my finances responsibly. I save a little each month for a new car (someday), my next trip (whenever that can be) and a rainy day fund. I don't obsess over my money, and I'm living within my means while also preparing for the future.
By: Billy Marvin
Billy Marvin is the marketing operations manager at Ameris Bank. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his husband, Chris, and their cat, Monster. He enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and home improvement projects.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.