For most of us, spending money is a passive activity. We get what we want, swipe our card, and move on with life. When the credit card statement comes, we wonder why the bill is so high, grumble about it for a bit, and then begrudgingly pay it.
Once I started to catch on that I wasn’t conscious about how I spent my money daily, I started to think about a budget. But what tool would I use?
Microsoft Excel seemed like a good choice. It allows you to make lists, do basic math formulas, create multiple pages, and use pretty colors and fonts for difference categories or expenses. Perfect, right?
Well, not really. At the end of every day, I’d have to go through all my receipts or write down my expenses for a day on scrap paper—providing I didn’t lose it on the way home. Then I’d have to manually enter everything in my Excel sheet. This worked okay for about three days. I grew tired of entering in my expenses and trying to remember if I wrote every single thing down.
A financially savvy friend of mine recommended Mint.com. When I checked out the site, I was a bit apprehensive. I’d never heard of it before and more importantly, it needed information about my accounts to link everything together. After reading all the security information provided on Mint, plus the recommendation from my friend noting he has never had any type of security issue, I jumped in.
The initial setup of all my checking accounts, credit cards, loans, 401(k), and a few other items went smoothly. Mint.com automatically sets up categories based on your spending to start you off, but you can add custom categories for budgets to accommodate your spending habits. After creating your budget plan and calculating your monthly income, Mint tells you how much money you should have left over at the end of the month.
Once you know how much money you have left over, you can use the Mint.com Goals tool to budget for your upcoming vacation, new car purchase, savings plan, or a custom goal you can create. This tool breaks down approximately how much money you should save each month and how long it will take you to achieve your objective.
After a few months, the trends tool helps you see where you spend your money and how your income, assets, and debt changes over time. You can even compare your spending habits to the US average. I’m a visual learner, and I think the graphs used in the trend tool really helped me grasp my spending habits and my finances.
Mint.com does more than just budget money, too. Once linked to your credit card accounts, Mint gathers the dates of when credit card bills need to be paid and sends reminder alert emails or texts to you. You can also add other bills in there too. I also use the bill reminder feature to help me pay my rent and utilities on time. Also, Mint analyzes your spending and suggests credit cards, checking accounts, retirement plans, and other financial tools for further financial success. They also have a blog featuring posts sharing personal finance tips. Mint can even help you learn more about auto insurance and brokerage firm options.
Furthermore with Mint.com’s free mobile apps, available on the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes Store, I can keep tabs on my budget throughout the day instead of my wrinkled scrap paper. Mint has made budgeting an effortless, stress-free process.
Since I started my Mint.com account about a year ago, I refined my budget so much that basically all my expenses are covered in one pay check and I’ve saved thousands of dollars. Despite minimizing my budget, I can still afford to go out to eat, take vacations, and buy the things I want. The only difference is now I have a tool that helps me plan better. Look no further than Mint to easily put your budget on the right track and help you save money.