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Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint

Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint

Virtual money management has been a real game changer in the last decade. With all of our personal finance data at our fingertips, it makes total sense to find the best tool out there to get on top of this area of life. In my opinion, Mint.com is by far the best application available for anyone interested in attaining financial freedom on their own terms. Here are the top 5 reasons that this is the case:

1. Full Integration

Mint is an incredibly powerful tool in that it allows you to bring all your financial relationships together under one roof. By integrating all of your bank accounts (i.e. checking and savings), brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, store cards, loans, and practically anything else, Mint provides a solid platform to get a full picture of your financial situation and to continuously monitor all activity across that world. Long gone are the days where you need to balance your check book and go through credit card statements line by line. Mint’s automatic categorization of almost all expenses makes it super simple to go through and make minor edits to run all sorts of personal financial analysis.

In order to get the full benefit of an integrated personal finance platform like Mint, my strong suggestion would be to get in the habit of paying for everything with your credit card. While there has been much hype over the years that credit cards are dangerous and get you into trouble, with responsibility, they can be your most powerful asset. By paying for everything you can with credit cards, all transaction details get automatically ported over into Mint and roughly categorized for review at a later time (plus there are tons of other benefits like rewards points that come with using plastic!). If you find that you don’t have your credit card on you for some reason, reach for your debit card next as you will get the same information into Mint although without the rewards points. In my opinion, cash should only be used as a last resort for two reasons: it’s difficult to track spending and there are no rewards for using it.

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Oh, by the way, Mint provides seamless integration across web and mobile devices as well so all of your financial information is accessible wherever you go.

2. Trend Analysis

Once you have at least a month’s worth of data, you can start doing some informative analysis of your financial life. Here’s a general breakdown of the monthly routine that I go through:

  • Start by checking each spending activity item in the Transactions section.
  1. Modify the names of transactions noting specific information (e.g. item, place, etc.).
  2. Re-categorize any items that were not automatically filed correctly. My suggestion would be to only create subcategories for areas that will have multiple items per month.
  3. Split out any transactions that were lumped together. With cash withdrawals, I find it difficult to always account for where that went but try your best.
  4. Mark any transactions as duplicate to not include in reports. I prefer to leave out any small interest and investment activity all together.

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    • After modifying the underlying data, check out the Trends section.
    1. Start with Spending by Category using pie charts for exactly a month.
    2. Click through each category to check all Transactions are accurately filed.
    3. Pull up the Net Income report to see how your income for that month compared to spending.
    4. Compare your Net Income and each major Category for the Last Month with the Previous as well as some other custom time period (e.g. 3, 6, or 12 months).
    5. Make note of general trends and spending habits that can be planned for in your budget.

    3. Budget Setting

    Setting budgets for your monthly spending is a good habit in general. While budgets can be overly constraining, Mint does a great job of providing functionality to make budgets a helpful reference point for financial freedom. I definitely recommend using this part of Mint at least  to program some broad categories and a few subcategories especially for things like Food & Dining. My suggestion would be to only get more granular with subcategories with things like automatic payments (e.g. magazines, Netflix, Hulu, etc.) so you can quickly account for these when reviewing your budget. Caution: the “Everything Else” section conveniently hides the rest of your spending so you’ll need to be diligent about seeing how much money is slipping by your plan.

    Another helpful feature is that Mint rolls over budgets to the next month making it easy to make a few adjustments here and there over time. As part of a monthly review, definitely go through what has been carried over and project out your expected spending for the month to be prepared when things come through. After doing trend analysis and drawing some conclusions, I use the key takeaways to figure out how my budgets could be modified.

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    4. Alerts & Notifications

    On the Overview tab of Mint, there is a section called Upcoming Bills that is really useful for planning purposes. Rather than taking up mind space having to remember when all of your various bills are due each month, I highly suggest taking the time to go through and specify who needs to be paid, the amount and the approximate date for the recurring payment. Trying to figure out the best timing for paying bills in relation to income is always a bit of a hassle. Having Mint visually display spending patterns I find to be a nice feature that allows me to find ways to most efficiently manage my money. Once this information has been specified, Mint will automatically send you reminders that bills are coming due either through email and/or mobile devices. I’m also a fan of some of the other notifications that are sent out as well such as getting paid!

    5. It’s free!

    In my opinion, Mint provides a ton of value at zero cost to the user. There are a few different personal finance applications now available but they often times have a business model that requires subscription such as LearnVest. With so much to offer, I don’t see why everyone and their Mother isn’t using Mint at the least to help bring greater clarity to their financial situation.

    There are a lot of other good functions of Mint but I find some of it to be a little cumbersome and not as useful as one would imagine. For example, the investments section is rather temperamental so I prefer to stick with my actual brokerage or retirement accounts to monitor activity. Also, the goal setting module has not been something that I have not gotten in the habit of using but surely others  find this valuable.

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    As a pre-requisite for self-actualization, money is something that continuously requires our attention. However, the more freedom that we can attain in relationship to this area the more we will be able to place on our higher aspirations. For this reason, I strongly suggest implementing Mint.com in your life if you haven’t done so already!

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    Last Updated on June 26, 2020

    25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

    25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

    “How to save money fast?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.

    If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need.

    You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.

    Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced.

    As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.

    And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!

    But first, understand what budget you can cut down on daily:

    • Regular expenses for the average adult (can be trimmed but not eliminated):
      • food
      • rent/mortgage
      • cell phone
      • insurance
      • socializing/entertainment
      • transportation
      • hygiene products
      • household bills
    • Irregular expenses for the average adult (can be eliminated or cut down a lot):
      • travel
      • clothing
      • medication (*depends)
      • grooming (hair, nails etc.)
      • gifts

    Now, let’s dive right into the 25 ways to save money fast:

    Save Money on Food

    1. Bring a stock of food to the office/work

    Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!).

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    Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.

    2. Buy the store-brand version

    Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!

    3. Eat cheaper cuts of meat

    Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.

    4. Have group dinners

    If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.

    Save Money in Transport

    5. Get a bicycle

    Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.

    6. Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis

    Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.

    7. Find the cheapest gas

    Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.

    Save Money in General Shopping

    8. Shop online

    Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals

    9. Sell your old stuff

    Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.

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    Here’re more ideas for you: 25 Things to Sell to Make a Lot of Money

    10. Bulk buying stores

    For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from).

    Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.

    11. Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru

    You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.

    12. Generic brand medication

    More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.

    13. Choose deodorant, not perfume

    It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!

    Cut Down on Household Expenses

    14. Printing

    Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. B

    e more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages.

    Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.

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    15. Minimize SMS and phone calls

    A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).

    16. Shop around for insurance

    Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal.

    Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.

    17. Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage

    If you have built up a good credit history or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.

    18. Don’t get a TV

    Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.

    19. Pool your internet bill with a neighbour

    My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.

    Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

    20. Have house parties

    Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

    For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

    21. Open festivals, meetups and events

    It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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    22. Volunteer

    If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

    23. Housesit

    There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

    Save Money on Hygiene and Beauty

    24. DIY beauty

    French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.

    25. Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser

    If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.

    Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

    Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

    • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
    • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
    • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
    • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
    • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
    • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
    • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

    Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

    What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

    Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

    More Tips for Personal Finance Management

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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