“ALERT! ALERT! YOU HAVE EXCEEDED YOUR BUDGET FOR PASTRY! PUT IT DOWN! SLOWLY PLACE YOUR WALLET BACK IN YOUR HANDBAG! NOW STEP AWAY FROM THE STORE… EASY NOW….that’s it…good job.
Sound a bit extreme? Maybe. But for some of us, it’s the little things that break our bank each month. One tiny thing leads to another and before you know it, whammo, you haven’t saved a dime. It’s been a year and half since I began my journey to conscious spending and budgeting, and there have been vast improvements. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like developing a healthy lifestyle as opposed to just dieting.
It always starts with the diet, right? You begin to count calories in the darndest places and that alone will improve your weight, but it doesn’t make you stronger, so in addition to watching what you eat, you start to exercise. Maybe at first you just start walking every night after dinner. And as each new habit takes hold, and you feel a bit of success, you find yourself wanting more and one day you wake up trying to remember what life was like before your first Iron Man win.
This is what the financial journey has been like for me. First, I gave up credit cards. Then I tried to watch my money every day. I looked around for financial software and since I am running a MAC, there were some limitations. I tried Quicken Online, but for some reason, shortly after I joined they fired my credit union. I’m still trying to work out whether this was somehow my fault. Then, I shopped financial software. I started out using Quicken, but Intuit hasn’t updated it in a very long time. They kept threatening to release a newer version, but I think everyone is still waiting. Personally, I am done with their empty flirting. I have moved on.
I was using Moneydance for a while, but have been consistently frustrated with limited features and even though it helped me improve my financial situation…I never fell in love.
But now…giggle…blush…I have a new crush. Over the last ten days I have slowly been setting up a Mint account. Yes I know Intuit bought them, but that’s okay, I don’t care. I think it’s wonderful anyway. And here’s why:
- It’s a simple set up and they ask for very little personal info in the process
- It tracks my accounts in one step each morning, but it is read only. You can’t move money with Mint.
- The budgeting software is easy and automatically sets up email alerts such as: “exceeded budget for clothes” I got this one yesterday and was eternally grateful (and a little ashamed).
- It automatically compares your spending with the U.S average in each category. I am not sure why I think this is cool, but I do.
- It gave me such a clear view of my financial picture that I immediately saw where I could cut back, lowering my expenditures over $500.00 the first month.
- I can check it with my phone.
I guess what I really love the most is the feature that allows me to roll over my budget for certain items each month and see what I haven’t spent, which will help create some room for error in other areas or keep that money available for things that come up every 6 or 7 weeks (like hair and horse shoes.) I can see my monthly average earnings in a glance and keep my budgeted items well below that mark. My budget includes the money going to my emergency fund each month, also.
You may say that other programs offer all of the same features, but the difference here is that this was easy for me and I have tried other programs. So, for whatever reason, Mint has made this easier for my particular personal financial handicaps and that’s all it takes to make me happy.
The bottom line here is: I like it and feel encouraged about keeping my financial resolve as a result. I encourage others to shop around the various programs available and figure out which one works best for them. I am keeping Mint.
*Disclaimer: I wrote this because I sincerely like this product. I am not in any way affiliated with Mint. Good Luck!