Do you ever have trouble making your budget stick?
I have a not-so-secret confession. When I was in my college years I was a major shopaholic. And I mean MAJOR.
I had some great enabler friends and together we’d raid the stores when stress for finals became overwhelming or studying became stressful. I loved getting new clothes and buying things for my apartment. It just felt good.
Back then I had no real concept of budgeting. Don’t get me wrong, I saved money. I babysat for years and stockpiled the money. But it wasn’t by any strategic planning or careful ideas.
If I saw something cute, I’d buy it. No hesitations and no questions asked.
The money that was saved was whatever was leftover. When I graduated and was hit with more bills than I’d ever paid before, I had a wake up call. I could no longer spend when I wanted and just hope I’d be okay. I needed to make a budget and a plan to make my money stretch while saving.
So month after month, I’d decide on a plan. But when the time came that I’d walk into the mall or TJ Maxx, the credit card would come out and I’d fudge the numbers in my budget until I basically gave up on the plan for that month, hoping next month I could make it work.
It was hard to keep track of the numbers and even harder to keep myself accountable.
After a little while of drifting into the guilt cycle of feeling like I was constantly failing and berating myself, I decided it was time for a major change.
That was around the time that I found Mint.
Normally I pass over these sorts of programs. They want all your account information and they seem to take a butt-load of work to get set up.
But I was desperate.
And it just so happened to become one of the most influential parts of my savings plan, my budgeting and my financial sanity.
So today, I want to share with you what Mint is and how it can change the way you budget and finally make your budget stick.
What’s So Great About Mint?
Mint is a free money management system that will help you track, plan and budget your finances.
Once you connect your accounts, you will be ready to get started.
Using Mint has helped me manage my income, my goals and my spending. It also reminds me when bills are due and has a place to track your assets.
You can use Mint for so much more, but I just use it for these parts of managing our finances.
Tracking the Trends in Your Income and Spending
Mint keeps track of the income that you make each month. It can track several sources of income which is especially great when you share an account with your spouse.
It also tracks the trends in your spending. There are several visuals to help you see where you’re spending your money each month and over time.
These tools are helpful in adjusting your budget to match your income and in understanding where and why you may be over-spending in certain areas.
For example, we noticed that we weren't spending the last $50 of our grocery budget until the very end of the month. And in those trips we'd splurge a little because we knew we had it in the budget. So we decided to trim that $50 and put it towards our retirement account.
Setting Budgets that Update in Real Time
This is my favorite part of Mint and one of their main features.
In Mint you can set a detailed budget organized by category. You can update categories names and amounts based on your spending.
Each budgeting category that you set will have a bar that goes from green to yellow to red as you near your spending limit. I LOVE this feature and use it constantly.
Often when I’m at the grocery store, I’ll pull up Mint real quick and check how much I have left in my grocery budget. We do this with other categories like restaurants or shopping. Once that bar turns yellow, you realize it’s time to really stop and consider your spending in that category.
These budgets are adjustable within your income range both during the month and as you get to each new month.
If you notice you’re nearing a budget in restaurants but you’ve spent much less in your shopping budget, you can actually adjust the budgets for the month. I love this feature because our spending is not exactly the same from month to month.
We love to go out to eat in the summer, but in the winter, we usually find ourselves spending a little more on shopping. We can easily and quickly adjust these budgets while still staying within our overall budget range.
I love this feature because this is always what held me back from a written and committed budget. My spending was never the same and I liked to be able to flux within the boundaries. Mint allows me to adjust where needed while staying within our overall limit for the month.
My third favorite feature of Mint is the ability to set goals and incorporate them into your budget and monthly spending. You can set a goal amount and categorize it.
For example, if you’re saving for a car and you know you’ll need $5,000 in 15 months, you can set this goal with the target date and it will calculate how much you need to save each month. It will track your savings and automatically adjust as you go.
We did this while saving for a house, for a car and now for home projects or vacations.
It really helps me to budget a little more tightly when I see what I absolutely need to save in order to reach the goals I have set for myself. The goal is actually set as a bar beneath your budgets so that you can easily calculate it into your monthly income and spending.
There are a few downsides to Mint. Sometimes the cards or accounts have trouble syncing and so you have to keep an eye on this otherwise you might miss some of the spending you did that month.
Also, the Capital One system just recently changed and now their updates take a day or two to process. We really loved the real-time feature and because our Capital One card is our favorite and our main card so now we have to wait a day or two to see the updates.
We still love Mint and love the features and functionality. Mint has helped us stick to our budget and keep ourselves accountable.
Let me know what you think! This tool has changed the way I budget and has helped me to finally create a budget that works!