How We Manage Our Money on a Daily Basis

Some links below are from our sponsors. Here’s how we make money.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

How We Manage our Money
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – there is no one-size-fits-all approach to money management. That is why I wrote this series to give readers a “peek under the hood” to share how my wife and I manage our money. This article follows the first in the series, which covers the…

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – there is no one-size-fits-all approach to money management. That is why I wrote this series to give readers a “peek under the hood” to share how my wife and I manage our money. This article follows the first in the series, which covers the financial products and services we use, and I will follow it tomorrow with a similar article on how we manage the finances of our small business.

How We Manage Our Money

My wife and I have combined finances. This is not the best approach for every married couple, but we find it works best for us. It helps us to know and understand how much money we have, where it is coming from, where it is going, and helps us better plan for the present and for the future. This article will show you what we do when the money hits our accounts, how we track our money, spend our money, how we pay our bills, make investments, and what we do from there.

How We Manage our Money

Tracking Income, Expenses, and Investments

Several years ago we used Quicken to help manage our finances. However, there have been several major improvements with online money management apps, and many companies now offer attractive alternatives to Quicken.

As powerful as it is, Quicken has three major downfalls:

  • it can be cumbersome for some users,
  • it is a desktop software program, which means you can only use it on one computer,
  • they recently migrated to an annual subscription model.

Using an online program alleviates the one computer problem and makes it easier to view your finances on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This can be a huge benefit for budgeting tools, as well as monitoring your spending, net worth, credit, investments, and other financials.

Some tools even offer the ability to integrate personal income and expenses with detailed investment tracking and portfolio analysis.

After I stopped using Quicken, I moved to which is a little more user-friendly than Quicken and is an online tool, giving you access from anywhere. However, is not as powerful, especially with investment tracking and analysis.

So now I use Personal Capital, which is the most powerful free investment tool I’ve come across.

Best options for tracking your income, expenses, and investments:

Banking, Income, Spending, & Budgeting

USAA – Our Main Financial Hub. We primarily use USAA as our main financial network, depositing our paychecks there and then using their online bill pay for almost all our bills. We also have most of our insurance there. USAA is a financial institution similar to a credit union; they limit their membership to military members past and present and their family members. They have a multitude of financial products and services, as well as many forms of insurance. We also have savings accounts at Capital One 360 and Discover Bank because their interest rates are currently much higher than USAA.

Income. My paycheck is directly deposited into our main checking account at USAA. From there we use online bill pay to pay most of our bills. We actually try to use our credit card as often as possible for recurring bills, then we automatically pay that each month online through bill pay. If there is a surplus in our checking account at the end of the month we transfer it to our main savings account so we earn a higher interest rate.

Spending. My wife and I primarily use cash back credit cards for our purchases and we pay them in full each month. We only write a handful of checks each month, mostly to our church, daughters’ education expenses, and for random one-off expenses. I like to carry cash with me at all times even though I almost always use my credit card for purchases. Carrying cash gives me a feeling of security and there are times when you just can’t use a credit card or check.

Charitable Contributions. We donate to our church each week, to other organizations that we believe in, and when circumstances arise when money is needed urgently, such as natural disasters.

Budgeting. We don’t have a strict budget that we track down to the penny. Instead, we track where we spend our money each month and look for trends. For example, if we notice our fuel expenses skyrocketed we will look for causes. Sometimes it is as simple as realizing we took two major road trips. Problem solved. Not having a strict budget works for us for several reasons: we don’t have any debt other than our mortgage, we have a reliable positive monthly cash flow, and we don’t spend much money (we don’t go shopping often and we rarely go out to eat). This doesn’t work for everyone, so please do what is best for your situation.

Looking for other budgeting options? Check out You Need a Budget (YNAB) for a top tier budgeting system or

Debt – We Avoid it When Possible

We don’t carry any consumer debt. I had a car payment when I got married, but I paid it off within a year. We have paid cash for everything else, with the exception of our home. As mentioned, we frequently use credit cards but pay them in full each month.

Our only recurring debt is our mortgage payment, which we pay a little extra each month (roughly $100 extra). We currently have a 30-year mortgage. We previously had a 15-year mortgage, but I like the flexibility that a 30-year mortgage offers. A 330-yearterm has lower monthly payments so it offers more financial flexibility in the long run. We can always pay more on our payment, but we can also dial back to the minimum if we need to. The longer term may also be a good hedge against inflation. We aren’t in a rush to repay our mortgage at this time. Instead, we funnel any extra money toward investments or other financial goals.

Managing Our Investments – Taxable Investments & Retirement Accounts

We are a little scattered when it comes to where our investments are located. We have close to a dozen investment accounts, which seems a little overboard to me, but most of the accounts are necessary.

For example, we have retirement accounts, taxable investments, Health Savings Accounts that hold investments, 529 college savings plans, etc.

Our retirement accounts are probably the most scattered. We have 8 separate retirement accounts with 4 different companies. Unfortunately, some of this cannot be avoided, either because they are an employer sponsored retirement account or the funds are in an account we don’t want to close (the Thrift Savings Plan, for example, has extremely low fees and handles our bond funds). The best we could do at this point is consolidate our retirement accounts down to 3 companies. Even if we consolidated companies we would still have 7 separate accounts.

I have two Roth IRAs, a Solo 401k plan, and an HSA we are using for investments, which is held at TD Ameritrade. My wife has a Roth IRA, a 401k plan, an HSA that holds investments, and a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account. I addressed this topic in the article about which financial products we use.

Other investments. We have taxable investment accounts with Vanguard and Ally Invest, and we have a 529 College Savings Plan for each of our children, which adds to the mix. I could possibly consolidate my Ally Invest account, but I’d rather keep it separate to maintain the records for my tax basis. The information would likely transfer, but it’s not a hassle to maintain that account.

Looking to open a new investment account? Check out Best Brokers for IRAs and Best Online Brokerages, and Best Places to Open a Coverdell Education Savings Account.

Investment Contributions

We make contributions to our retirement investments through automatic deposits to take advantage of dollar cost averaging and so we have a more stable cash flow throughout the year. Every few months we may make a lump sum contribution into a taxable investment account, depending on our investment goals, cash flow, etc. We try not to make automatic deposits to these accounts because commissions can add up quickly! I also prefer investing in larger lump sum increments, because I use specific Lot ID’s when investing in taxable accounts. This gives me more flexibility when it comes time to sell the investments (more control over short and long term capital gains).

Managing Our Investments

Managing all those different pots of money would be a nightmare if it wasn’t for account aggregators like Personal Capital. I sync all of my banking and investment accounts and credit cards to Personal Capital and it pulls in all the account balances and other data. I can view everything in one place and know in a few minutes if I need to change my asset allocation or transfer any funds. Then I simply log into the accounts as necessary, make any adjustments or transfers, and get on with my merry life. The entire process takes about 30 minutes or less each month.

Managing My Business Finances

This is a little outside the scope of this article, so I wrote a full length article that covers how we manage our business income and expenses. The article includes the financial accounts we use (Chase Business Checking and Capital One Spark Savings), business credit cards, as well as some of the tools, including our payroll provider (Gusto), accounting software (QuickBooks Online), etc.

Dealing with Irregular Income

This is a topic I almost didn’t include, but I added it at the last minute. I am self-employed, through this site and other online ventures. I am also a member of the Air National Guard. It’s hard to predict what my business income and expenses from month to month.

To smooth out my income, I pay myself a salary (I use Gusto as my payroll provider). My salary is directly deposited into my bank account and we try to live within the confines of my monthly payroll.

Prior to being self-employed, I used all the business profits to accelerate our financial goals. Since my wife and I have generally avoided debt, this involved setting aside additional funds for taxes, retirement investments, additional charitable giving, and short term savings (for example, we upgraded our home from a two-bedroom home to a larger home to accommodate our growing family). I guess we could “keep up with the Joneses” but we have our own financial goals in mind.

Did I miss anything? I think I covered just about everything that relates to our daily money management, and some of the recurring expenses such as mortgage payments and investing. Feel free to leave a comment or ask questions and I will address it in the comments section or make an addition to this article.

Image created at

Related Posts:

Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Posted In:

About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

Reader Interactions


    Leave A Comment:


    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Allison says

    This is really comprehensive–I particularly like your approach to irregular income. If people start to depend on unreliable income, problems arise.

  2. Ted @broketofree says

    We deal with my wife’s irregular income by living off of my income alone. That way, whatever she brings in we can either 1) invest back into her business or 2) do something special for someone else or our kiddos. About 75% of what she brings in goes right back to the business. Hopefully, in a few years we can get that down to 30-50%

    Thanks for the informative post.

  3. JMK says

    Very similar approach to what we do. We cover our basic living expenses on about 55% of our take home and the rest is distributed between retirement savings, extra mortgage payments and travel. Even though we bring in far more than we spend every week, I do track every cent that passes through our hands. I have a spending plan laid out for the entire year in advance and as the actual amounts (gas, groceries, autopay bills etc) arrive on the CC I update the estimated amount. On my spreadsheet, there is one line at the end of every week tagged as “Transfer to____”. This is my cue to assess how much excess there is for the week and then I send it to either our retirement savings or mortgage. If I set up automatic payments for savings or extra mortgage payments I would likely choose a lower amount which I could be certain would always be available. Buy reviewing the actual numers every week I contribute far more. I enter an amount on the spreadsheet and then scan down several weeks to see if that amount causes any issues in the future. This process allows me to maximize the amount I skim off everyweek and put it to work ASAP. I could do this review and transfer process monthly, but I prefer to get that money moved sooner to maximize the benefit. Because we bring in far more than we need for daily expenses I don’t track the details to prevent overdrafts, but rather to remain accountable for our spending choices.

    We also use our CC for everything that can be paid that way – auto pay bills, groceries, gas, annual insurance premiums etc. I review transactions online and pay it off weekly. I’ve never paid interest. We travel a fair bit, so we selected a card which gives us points for Air Canada. We don’t spend a cent more than we would using cash but this way we get a benefit. Some retailers let you swipe the actual Air Canada card so we earn double when combined with points earned on the CC. My husband’s work AMEX also earns points which he can convert free to Air Canada points so we are pooling points from multiple sources. As a result we’re now about a month away from having enough points for our four flights to Europe for this summer.

    • Ryan says

      JMK, it sounds like you and your family have a well managed system in place! My system is less hands on, but I’ve fond it works for us. We don’t travel as often as you and your family, so we use cash back credit cards instead of travel points. But points cards an be a great way to get discounts or even free airfare. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Lulu says

    Your system sounds similar to mine, except ING is my main account. I also pay bills via credit cards and then use ING to pay the credit cards.

    I like how you treat irregular income as a surprise and live off your salary because that is really the best approach. This allows you to plan much better because you know what your salary is going to be but the irregular side income can fluctuate wildly from month to month.

  5. Holly says

    I would like to know which cc’s are being used to pay the monthly recurring bills. I have thought of doing this as well to get the rewards, but it seems that either the credit card assesses a fee for the service or the utility co., insurance co., or bank (mortgage) charges a fee. The fees are large enough that the rewards would not be worth it. Any suggestions out there?

    • Ryan says


      We are usually able to do things like cell phone bills, internet/cable, and some utilities. We are not able to set up our health insurance on automatic payment with out credit card, but we can pay monthly with our credit card at no additional charge (they allow automatic payments from checking and savings accounts, so I think is is to save them from the processing fees; fewer people are willing to call in every month with a credit card number as many people prefer automatic payments). Our mortgage company charges a hefty fee to process payments via credit card and it is not worth it for us.

      So you can’t do everything with your credit cards, but you can usually set up the smaller monthly payments. For us those add up to several thousand dollars in charges each year, and we typically receive 1% or more of that back in cash rewards.

  6. Holly says

    Thanks so much for the reply, Ryan. I do have a Chase card (not sure if it’s the Freedom card), so I will be looking into their automatic monthly payment terms/conditions (or setting it up thru the payee, whichever will work best).

  7. Terry B. says

    I just wanted to say that you CAN use Quicken from more than one computer. All you need to do is set up a free account on and store your Quicken files in your Dropbox folder. This allows you to sync the Quicken file across multiple computers, via the Dropbox folder.

  8. Full Disclosure says

    Thanks for showing us what’s under your financial hood. I really enjoy seeing how the disciplined approach to financial planning and saving can pay off. Unfortunately, I am not disciplined enough to pay off the credit cards every month, so for now they are in a block of ice in the freezer!

Disclaimer: The content on this site is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not professional financial advice. References to third party products, rates, and offers may change without notice. Please visit the referenced site for current information. We may receive compensation through affiliate or advertising relationships from products mentioned on this site. However, we do not accept compensation for positive reviews; all reviews on this site represent the opinions of the author. Privacy Policy

Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.