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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 January 21, 2020

How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

We all like to dream about being financially wealthy. For most people though, it remains a dream and nothing more. Why is that?

It’s because most people don’t set their mind to achieving that goal. They might not be happy in their current situation but they’re comfortable – and comfort is one of the biggest enemies of growth.

How do you go about developing that millionaire mindset? By following these simple steps:

1. Focus On What You Want – And Take It!

So many people are too timid to admit they want something and go for it. When there is something that you want to accomplish don’t think “I could never actually do that”, think “I could do that and I WILL do that”.

Millionaires play to win, not to avoid defeat.

This doesn’t mean to have to become a selfish jerk. What it means is becoming more assertive and honest with yourself. You don’t have to grab off other people. There is a big pot of unclaimed gold in the middle of the table — why shouldn’t you be the one to claim it? You deserve it!

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2. Become Goal-Orientated

It’s almost impossible to achieve anything if you don’t set firm goals. Only lottery winners become millionaires overnight. By setting yourself attainable goals, you will get there eventually. Don’t try to get rich quickly — get rich slowly.

Let’s take the idea of making your first million dollars and expand on what kind of goals you might set to get there. Let’s also say you’re starting at a break-even position – you’re making enough to get by with a few luxuries, but nothing more.

Your goal for the first year can be having $10,000 in the bank within a year. It won’t be easy but it is doable. Next, you need to figure out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

Always look at ways to make growth before cutbacks. With that in mind, you might want to see if you can negotiate a pay rise with your boss, or if there’s another job out there that will pay better. You might be comfortable in your old job but remember, comfort stunts growth.

You may also have other skills outside of your workplace that you can monetize to boost your bank balance. Maybe you can design websites for people, at a fee of course, or make alterations to clothes.

If this is still not enough to make the money you need to save $10,000 in a year, then it’s time to look at cutbacks. Do you have a bunch of old junk that someone else might love? Sell it! Do you really need to spend $10 on your lunch everyday when you could make your own for a fraction of the cost?

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If you are to become a millionaire, you need to start accumulating money.

Here’re some tips to help you: How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

3. Don’t Spend Your Money – Invest It

The reason you need to accumulate money is for step three. Millionaires tend to be frugal people, and that’s because they know the true value of money is in investing. Being your own boss goes hand-in-hand with becoming a millionaire. You’ll want to quit your regular job at some point.

Stop working for your money and make your money work for you.

Rather than buying yourself a new iPad, that $500 could be used to invest in the stock market. Find the right shares (more on that later), and that money could easily double within a year.

There’s not just the stock market — there’s also property, and your own education.

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4. Never Stop Learning

The best thing you can invest in is yourself.

Once most people leave the education system, they think their learning days are over. Well theirs might be, but yours shouldn’t be. Successful people continually learn and adapt.

Billionaire Warren Buffet estimates that he read at least 100 books on investing before he turned twenty. Most people never read another book after they’ve left school. Who would you rather be?

Learn everything you can about how economics works, how the stocks markets work, how they trend.

Learn new skills. If you have an interest in it, learn everything you can about it. You’d be surprised at how often, seemingly useless skills, can become extremely useful in the right situation.

Start developing the habit of learning continuously: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

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5. Think Big

While I advise to start off with small goals, you absolutely should have a big goal in mind. If you have a business idea, then that is your ultimate goal – to start that business and make a success of it. If you want to invest your way to millions of dollars and do little work other than research, then that is your big goal.

There is no shame in not achieving a big goal. If you run a business and aim to make $1 million profit in a year and “only” make $200,000, then you’re still significantly ahead of most people.

Aim for the stars, if you fail you’ll still be over the moon.

6. Enjoy the Attention

To be successful, you have to be willing to promote yourself and enjoy the attention to a certain extent. Now the attention doesn’t need to be on yourself, it could be on your brand, but attention definitely attracts money.

Never be embarrassed to get your name out there. That means finding a spotlight and being brave enough to step right up underneath it.

If you run a business, try contacting the local papers. You’d be surprised at how amenable they often are to running a story about you and your business, and it’s all free publicity.

Above all, remember: You control your own destiny. Push hard enough for anything and you’ll get it.

More About Thinking Smart

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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