5 Ways The Mint App Has Helped Me Step Up My Budget
I got wind about Mint years ago, but never thought to use it for myself. Creating an online account to manage my budget and track my spending seemed a little silly to me at the time.
I was only working part-time, and my bills were pretty minimal. Back then, I was a college student living at home rent-free, with a job to supplement my full-time class schedule. The extent of my financial obligations were filling up my gas tank to drive back and forth from campus, giving my parents some money toward our family phone plan to cover my cell phone bill, and sending my parents a check for my car insurance. They didn’t charge me for groceries, utilities, or anything else. In short, I was very lucky!
Flash forward to today, and I am a college graduate with five years of full-time employment under my belt. I have become an “adult” (whatever that really means) and realized I need to better manage my finances.
In 2016 I got my first dog, in 2018 I got a second dog, and now I am a homeowner. These days I have vet bills, utilities, a mortgage, health insurance, student loan debt, and a car to pay for, among other expenses. With all of the financial obligations that come with adulthood, it made sense for me to take Mint seriously and I am so glad I did.
Here are five ways using Mint has helped me track my spending and manage my budget:
1. I can track all of my accounts in one place.
When I first set my Mint account up, it encouraged me to link all of my various accounts to my dashboard. I linked my mortgage provider, my student loans, my bank accounts, my retirement account, and my various credit cards all in one place.
This process startled me, as I was surprised to see just how many credit cards I had open in my name. To be fair, almost all of them were carrying a zero dollar balance, but still. I quickly became very much aware of the credit cards I had open but never used, and made the responsible decision to close the unused accounts.
2. I can review my dashboard easily.
The Mint dashboard, or “overview” tab, makes it super easy and effortless for me to review my accounts in one full sweep.
At the top, I can review my current account balances for my checking and saving bank accounts. Below that, I am able to review any credit card balances I owe. From there, my student loans and mortgage balances are stacked, and at the end of the section I can review my retirement funds. This makes it very easy for me to see what payments I need to make and when.
There is also a level of accountability here. If I notice my credit card balance is a bit high, for example, I can make a point to cut back on using that card until I pay my balance off. The dashboard feature makes this very realistic for me to keep track of all of my accounts.
3. I regularly assess my spending habits.
Another way Mint holds me accountable is by showing me my spending in relation to my budgets.
I can set individual budgets for expenses like restaurants, clothing, coffee shops, etc. Green means I am on/under budget whereas red means I have gone over my allotted budget for the month. It is practical for me to assess where I am in my budget month-to-month to make sure I am not only paying all of my bills, but also saving money when I can.
Seeing that my coffee spending was high in April, for example, motivates me to cut back on it in May. It is a simple practice of checks and balances that is completely automated, making it simple for me to review my spending and check my budget regularly.
4. I can set goals.
Mint has a feature called “goals” where I can create a goal and assess my level of achievement toward said goal.
For example, one of my goals is to pay one of my student loans off by the end of 2020. I can track my progress toward this goal as regularly as I want, from weekly check-ins to monthly insights. Having this feature really holds me accountable because I am reviewing my progress on a regular basis. I can see if I might not achieve the goal by the time I’d like and have the option of doubling up on payments to reach my goal by my desired timeline.
Other goals that Mint can set up for you include saving an emergency fund, saving for college, buying a car, investing, buying a home, etc. I really appreciate the goal setting feature in Mint, as it makes it easy for me to visualize my financial goals, calculate what I need to save, and stick to my plan.
5. The trends feature is very informative.
Mint has another helpful feature called “trends.” Under the trends tab I can assess trends in my spending in a very visual way. I am able to select the time period I want to review, which accounts I want to assess, and any or all transactions made under those accounts.
All of this information is then put into a graph, either a bar chart or a pie chart. I prefer the pie chart because each trend gets its own color, making it very easy to review what my trends in spending are for the time period I select.
For example, a big trend for me in the spring is a spike in automotive spending. Each May, I need to have my car registration renewed, get my vehicle inspected, and pay for my semi-annual car insurance (I like to pay in 6-month installments). That said, I end up spending around $400 on my car in May, and that is assuming I do not have any maintenance needed.
When I first saw the automotive trend spike on Mint I got nervous, but I can easily click this trend and review the charges associated with the category “auto and transport.” It all made sense to me why May was a heavy month for auto bills. The trends feature is also helpful to see how my spending in education (student loans), home (mortgage), food (groceries and restaurants) varies month-to-month. Once again, Mint holds me accountable to the trends it finds in my bills and spending habits.
Mint is the only budget tracker that has made a big impact in the way I manage my finances. I find myself much more clued into my spending, the balances I carry on my accounts, and how my retirement funds fluctuate.
The bulk of my bills do not vary much month-to-month for my student loans, mortgage, and utility accounts, but seeing my spending on my credit cards and any miscellaneous purchases (e.g. birthday gifts, travel, clothing, etc.) is very important to monitor.
I appreciate that Mint can hold all of my personal financial accounts in one place, making it easy for me to review my financial state at any point in time. The best part about Mint? It’s totally and completely free! If you are looking for a budget tracker and planner that will help you take control of your finances, Mint might be the tool for you. Check it out!