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How to Get Started Managing Your Money with Mint

How to Get Started Managing Your Money with Mint

Budgeting can be very frustrating because you can waste a lot of time managing your budget without ever actually analyzing your budget!  If you’re spending all of your time collecting and categorizing data, you might never get to the true purpose of budgeting, which is to save money.

The most important aspect of budgeting isn’t necessarily sticking to it (although that is important), the real purpose is to feel in control of your money and gain understanding about where it goes.  In fact, you can’t create a realistic budget unless you first know what is happening; until you have several months of spending data, it’s pointless to try.

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For anyone who has struggled with budgeting in the past, I recommend Mint, which is free personal finance software.  Mint is a great tool for helping you track your spending as well as track other areas of your finances.  And for the person who doesn’t enjoy budgeting, it’s easy to use for expense tracking without getting distracted by a lot of the other bells and whistles.

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Here is my 5-point plan to start Mint simply:

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  1. Only Connect Spending Accounts.  In Mint, you are able to connect virtually any account you have—in addition to bank accounts, you can set up investment accounts, mortgages, student loans, and more.  But this is a distraction.  If you’re using Mint to track spending, only connect your checking accounts and charge accounts.  This way, you will concentrate only on spending data when you log in.
  2. Delete The Budgets.  You know what your monthly rent is, so you don’t need a budget to track that.  And most people don’t “overspend” on things like gas, electricity and utilities, so why would you need a budget for it?  You really just want to know what you’re spending in a given area, which you can always find in the Trends tab.  So delete the budgets until you have a couple of months’ of data, and then you can add back budgets for the things you want accountability for, like Eating Out and Shopping.
  3. Always Use Rules.  Mint has fantastic auto categorization, but you’ll still need to get in there once every couple of weeks to categorize stuff it doesn’t recognize.  When you do this, make sure that every time you categorize you also click the “Rule” check box that tells Mint to always categorize future purchases from that vendor the same way.
  4. Leave ATM Withdrawals Alone.  People always wonder if they should try to categorize their ATM cash.  Unless you discover that ATM withdrawals are excessive, I recommend just leaving it how Mint categorizes it, which is as ATM Withdrawal.  If you know you just spend on one category, you might end up easily categorizing it, but leaving it “as is” is the simple way to go.
  5. No Split Categorization.  I think if you are trying to apply multiple categories to one transaction—like a trip to Target or Costco—you’re trying too hard.  Choose one category, like Home Supplies, and stick to that.  The issue is never that you’re over your Shampoo budget; it’s that you went to Target 4 times in a month!  Split categorization doesn’t give you more clarity in that situation.

If you adhere to these five rules, you’ll have plenty of time to review the Trends tab in Mint to gain more clarity over your spending; and then you’ll be able to act strategically to positively affect your cash flow.

(Photo credit: Accounting via Shutterstock)

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How to Get Started Managing Your Money with Mint

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Last Updated on April 3, 2019

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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6. Get Aggressive About It

Consider these points:

Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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Finally (and most importantly)…

8. Keep Trying

Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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