I held my first in-person financial discussion group this past Sunday. I was very excited to bring my musings out of the online world and into real life, but I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I’d only set a very general topic of discussing budgeting.
In the weeks leading up, I tried to prepare a couple different things I could discuss. I signed up for Mint.com, a free personal finance management site, to see if I could recommend it. (It turned out to be not for me, but I probably would recommend it for certain circumstances. More on that later, perhaps.) I mocked up fake versions of my two main budgeting spreadsheets (yes, there are others! I’m Google Drive-crazy) and printed them out. I even made up a little quiz in case we needed an icebreaker or something to get us started (we didn’t, so maybe I’ll share that later).
Sunday was a snowy day, so several of the invitees were unable to attend. But our small and hardy group had a fruitful discussion anyway. Much to my surprise and delight, some pulled out laptops and shared their own budgeting systems. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in my social circle who uses such tools, but I think that’s just a symptom of people not really being open about their financial lives. It was really fascinating to see how many great, functional ways there are to think about and control your money. (I mean, I knew many methods existed, but I’d never seen them brought to life by actual people before.)
Anyway, the main focus was on demonstrating our various budgeting tools and answering questions about them, but we also touched on several areas that I think deserve further exploration: how to handle money if you share finances with someone; how to keep grocery shopping under control moneywise; how to “trick” yourself into saving more; the pros and cons of owning vs. renting a home; and how to handle an unexpected windfall such as an inheritance.
But first, I’ll work on discussing various budgeting tools, starting with my own system. As soon as I can get some good screenshots together, I’ll do so! Hopefully I can also share the other systems that were demonstrated at the meeting.
We mentioned April as a good time to meet again, so stay tuned for a wrap-up of the next meeting. Between now and then, I have lots of ideas, both things I’ve come up with myself and things that came out of the discussion group, that I’ll share as I find time to write about them.