Good Systems Can Make Your Finances Boring… And That’s A Good Thing

About a week ago Mr PoP misplaced his credit card clip. We knew we had it when we went out to dinner one night, and then the next day Mr PoP couldn’t find it.

We searched the house high and low. Mr PoP called the restaurant where we had gone out. The darned thing was nowhere to be found.

A few years ago this might have really stressed me out. But this week, it barely phased me. Why the change?

Our Systems Are So Much Better Now…

System #1 – Mr PoP carries fewer cards

Mr PoP generally has few cards on him* these days. Generally each month we check which cards will maximize the rewards on the spending he’s got planned and put those in his wallet. The rest go into our home safe. This meant that we were easily able to tell which cards were missing and which ones we needed to keep an eye on and potentially report missing and replace.

System #2 – We are BOTH using Mint regularly.

A few years ago, I was the only one with an iPhone (Mr PoP had a blackberry…) and the only one that checked our account on a regular basis to see where we were budget-wise. It was then up to me to report back to Mr PoP where all the accounts stood so we could adjust spending if needed. That also meant that watching the accounts for phoney transactions or miscategorizations all fell on me.
Now, we both have smart phones with Mint on them and were easily able to keep an eye out for fraudulent transactions.

System #3 – Our accounts are incredibly locked-down

If a criminal had gotten their hands on the cards that Mr PoP misplaced – which were a credit card, a debit card, and his driver’s license – the worst case scenario of what damage they would be able to accomplish was still quite small. As part of our post-identity theft lock-down, there would be no way for a criminal to use any of the personal information on those cards to gain access to any of our accounts. The worst they could have done was run some charges through on the credit card – charges that we could have easily spotted by monitoring our mint account, contested, and then closed the account.

So What Happened?

About a week after the loss happened, we felt like we had exhausted our search options and had convinced ourselves that we should give it up and call the credit card companies to issue new cards. We thought there was a decent chance the cards had been swept up in some garbage from where Mr PoP was tuning up my bike (using his awesome new garage space and a nifty bike maintenance rack that he custom built) and was likely picked up with the garbage and made its way to the city dump during the week. Crud, right? We’d need to replace the cards. But then I procrastinated one more night on calling…

Only to find the darned thing the next day at the bottom of one of our laundry hampers**.

While I definitely gloated about being the one to find the little card clip, finding it was still mostly a non-event. Sure, it saved Mr PoP the hassle of getting a new license (which would have cost $25, but he could have done it online with a bare minimum of hassle). And it saved me from having to call and get a couple new credit cards issued and call the two bills that we have autopaid from those accounts. But neither of those activities would have really taken that much time or money to finish.

The biggest accomplishment was having the systems set up that allowed us to take a “watch and wait” approach to this that I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with just a few years ago.


* When it comes to carrying fewer cards, I should learn from Mr PoP’s example. My access to cards is kindof feast or famine. I carry virtually no cards most of the time, especially if I’m on my bike for the day, but then have way too many with me at other times.
** If you took this as a sign that I procrastinated on laundry last week, you are right. But I’m all caught up now.


What kind of systems do you have set up that make your finances boring, but in a good way?

23 comments to Good Systems Can Make Your Finances Boring… And That’s A Good Thing

  • Our biggest system is simply using automation to make transfers to pay bills and such. That really helps us keep from forgetting anything. Awesome that you found the card clip. Even though I know it’s not the end of the world, it’s frustrating to lose things like that.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..What Ritz Crackers ‘n Cheese Dip Taught Me About Breaking RoutinesMy Profile

  • I feel the same way about my wallet being stolen. If have to replace a bunch of stuff, like my library card, insurance card, and of course credit cards, but it’s not going to lead to financial disaster because I track odd purchases so closely. My great system has also made investing less exciting. I just invest a certain amount two times A month. There’s no speculating or selling so sometimes I even forget that I do it.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..When it’s finally time to find a new jobMy Profile

    • Our investing is pretty boring, too! Especially those auto-deposits into our 401Ks. =)

    • CincyCat

      Cash Rebel – People often forget about library cards. When my purse “walked away” a few years ago, it never occurred to me to report the library card missing. However, when I went to the library a few months later, I was informed that thieves will use stolen library cards to check out DVDs and then sell them on the black market. Thankfully, that had not happened in my case, but they said it is quite prevalent.

  • Debbie M

    My favorite is my emergency fund – now when something expensive happens, I just pay for it. So boring!

    My second favorite is direct deposit of paychecks. I am old enough to remember a time when that wasn’t available. So nice not to have to make trips to the bank.

    I have a lot of things I use regularly in my purse in places where I can easily get to them. Not just financial stuff, but also other stuff like ibuprofen and ear plugs. (It would not be good for me to lose my purse. Not boring at all.)

    Autopay is helpful on a few things, less helpful on others (the ones with variable amounts where I find out the amount long before it gets paid–do I enter it in my register as soon as I find out–and then it’s annoying to balance for several weeks–or do I wait until later and either try to remember or just wait until it appears on my credit card website?).

    I have a system for shopping for insurance that I like. Every few years I start at my state’s Department of Insurance. They list car and homeowner’s insurance companies with both ratings and expected costs for certain categories of customers. I comparison shop among only the top-rated, low-cost companies.

    I used to have a fix-rate mortgage. Since mortgage rates were at historic lows when I got mine, it was a no-brainer. However, mortgage rates continued plummeting for pretty much the entire 17 years I held my mortgage, so in my case, less boring would have been good. Still, I only had to worry about increases in property taxes and insurance which were never too big to manage.

    • I like the insurance shopping method – have you typically ended up with well-known nationwide companies or smaller local ones with that method?

      • Debbie M

        I think well-known nation-wide companies. I have GEICO for car insurance, definitely well-known. And I have Liberty Mutual for homeowner’s insurance–not sure.

  • Glad you found it, though! I do the same thing with my cards, and with one of them, the bank texts me anytime there’s a purchase over $100, so that’s pretty helpful.

    This might sound overly cautious, but another part of my system is a “to-do list” if my wallet ever gets stolen. It lists the contents of my wallet and the numbers associated with having to replace each card. It might be a bit much, but my wallet was stolen a few years ago and it was such a pain trying to retrace and then replace everything!
    Kristin Wong recently posted..Yum! Check out these food deals for Super Bowl SundayMy Profile

    • I have those alerts set up for our cards too, and they are so on top of it! Sometimes it creeps Mr PoP out when I text him 30 seconds after he makes a purchase and say, “oooh, how’s your new bike?” =)

  • I only get paid once a month (no fidgeting with moving money around multiple times in a month). I don’t use targeted savings accounts anymore and just have one active goal (pay off the mortgage). I almost entirely use one credit card (my Fidelity Amex that gets 2% everywhere). I also have everything set up on auto-pay, so I could go out of the country for a few months (assuming I still got paid) and everything would work out fine!

    I’ve already made my 2014 Roth IRA contribution and set my investments %s for my 401(k), so the only change I will make to my investments this year is to lower my 401(k) contribution % when I get my raise.

    I’m sure there are other ways that I’m forgetting at the moment.

    I don’t really worry about money at all anymore!
    Leigh recently posted..Milestone Achieved: Over $100,000 of Mortgage PaidMy Profile

  • So glad you guys found them. We really need to take some of the advice you noted in your posts about the identity theft. We’re playing a little fast and loose, relying on the credit card companies to identify when fraud is happening and reimburse us afterwards.
    Done by Forty recently posted..January Net Worth & Goals Update, and Guest Post InviteMy Profile

  • Great post. Having systems in place is really the only way to get meaningfully ahead in your finances. My favorite system is having the ability to set up sub accounts in my online savings account for different goals, and depositing money into them automatically each month. This ensures we meet our goals and also ensures we’re not spending more than we have.
    Syed recently posted..Guest post: Why I Became an OptometristMy Profile

  • […] -Good Systems Can Make Your Finances Boring…And That’s a Good Thing by Planting Our Pennies:  This post gives a good example of the powerful effect of systems in personal finances.  If you don’t have systems in place, every day can be a hectic mumbo jumbo of bills and missed payments. […]

  • When I was pregnant, my mind did not work and I lost my debit card right before we were going on a trip to Italy. We were planning to use the debit card for taking out cash from the ATM’s, and I knew there would be no time to replace it. I waited a day and eventually found it in the freezer. I still have no idea why I put it there and can’t remember doing it at all.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..10 Productive Things To Do INSTEAD Of Watching The Super BowlMy Profile

  • Glad yall found it! There is nothing more annoying than losing a wallet or IDs!
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..A Day In The Life: Self Employment VersionMy Profile

  • **I take it as a sign that laundry should always and naturally be procrastinated on. You never know when that winning lottery ticket might be in that dirty pants pocket.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Wednesday Morning Fish Wrap: Fried FishMy Profile

  • I started using mint in January and I’m a bit frustrated because it won’t allow me to link up my tradeking account. Apparently it’s an ongoing issue, but it’s been a month now, i’d like to have it resolved so I don’t have to manually calculate it into my net worth every time.
    Stefanie @ thebrokeandbeautifullife recently posted..I Went to the Gym… And It Was AwfulMy Profile

  • […] post from the PoPs about how good financial systems can be almost well, boring, was very interesting. Liz could certainly do with a better money management system so she knows […]

  • CincyCat

    The one system that has made our finances more “boring” (read: far less stressful) is our targeted accounts for irregular major bills such as taxes, insurance, etc. We forecast out for an entire year what we think the costs will be, then set aside a fixed amount each month in a separate account. When the bills come due, we just schedule them to be paid out of the other account. It doesn’t “feel” like a hit to our budget at all. We use the same method for “major purchases”.

  • I should consider narrowing down to just a couple credit cards in the wallet (just in case one chose to stop working). Between checking Mint daily, automated bill payments, and automated investments we’ve mostly got the safe and boring part down. The wife would probably be fine leaving it at that. Fortunately for me our auto investments leave just enough cash accumulating in our accounts so I can manually invest it every so often. Despite the constraints of our “conservative” investing plan I get a small relief from the boredom as I choose between one of several mutual funds or even a bonus house payment.
    LMaS recently posted..Biking to Work – January 2013My Profile

  • I have to say my finances are never boring. That’s just the freelance thing talking. But then again, it’s exciting when you exceed what you thought you were going to make. But I am kind of jealous of the “boring-ness” of yours!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..January Recap/February Goals!My Profile

  • Jen

    I now appreciate the importance of the measures you mention above. Recently, we realized that some of our bills and bank statements went missing while we were moving. After that, we decided to sign into a credit monitoring system our bank offers. It offers peace of mind by monitoring our card activities. I too recommend keeping a check on your money.
    Jen recently posted..Mistakes Made while Arranging Auto Insurance PoliciesMy Profile