When it comes to your personal budget, the best way to be successful is to make data entry and keeping track of your every purchase as simple and easy as possible. The days of excel spreadsheets and entering every card transaction by hand are done, welcome to the world of Mint.com.
This program offers the most simple and efficient method for the individual or small business owner who is serious about budgeting and wants to track their spending in an effort to save. In a few easy steps, using Mint, you will be able to view all your income and purchases instantly, linking all accounts, for an accurate and up to date view of your current financial situation.
Having your information all in one place helps you to better be able to strategize your spending and saving. Nothing has made this easier than Mint.com; here is how to use it.
During this first stage of setting up your Mint.com Profile, you will be given information from all of your personal finance accounts linked to your Mint account. The information from each one of these will go back up to a year and will be used to help to track your spending and will be what you use to create your budget.
During this initial set up, you will need to take the time to categorize your spending and label it accordingly. Mint will automatically assign purchases to different categories based on the type of business conducted, you then have the option to go in and sub-categorize and get more specific with the details attached to each account. The more specific you get, the better you will be able to see where exactly you are spending the largest chunks of money, where you can cut down and which items can be used as deductions from your taxes. It is all there, present in the details.
Mint will automatically generate a few default budgets for you based on the categories you have selected and your spending history. Once you take a look at these, you can decide if you would like to change them in any way to include more subcategories, or exclude ones as well. You can customize these budgets any way you want simply by using the edit details feature. You can also create new budgets as well, as many as you like to track all areas of your spending.
Once you have your budgets created, you should be able to step back and let Mint.com do the rest for you. Every purchase you make using your cards or PayPal, excluding cash of course, will be automatically updated in the system and tracked in your budget to keep all information current. As you progress monthly, so will your trackers, changing from green to red as you get close to your allotted amounts, or overspend. At the end of the month, you will be given the option to roll over any unspent amounts to the next month. Again, you have the ability to customize your account any way you like.
Once you have all of your initial set up completed and all your desired accounts have been linked in, and your budget is set, you can have the software email you an alert for a number of different reasons. You may want to be notified if you go over budget, or you spend more than is usual for you in a certain category. You can customize this however you like as well to receive as many or as few notifications about your account. This can be particularly helpful in a society that for the most part, does not write each purchase in a balance anymore. You can be aware if your accounts are too low and avoid unnecessary fees associated with overspending.
If you have an iPhone, you can download the Mint.com app for free and manage your accounts in the palm of your hand, anywhere on the go. The app has most of the features that you find online and you can add or subtract accounts and edit information from just about anywhere. The app also has special tips for it’s users, based on your spending, you may receive suggestions on how to save money in different areas, tips on consolidating debt and reducing your overall spending in general areas.
The app also allows you to view new alerts and information as it is updated to your account and offers to send you push notifications in many different instances, again, these options are also up for customization.
Jennifer Ricci works with students and their student loan questions for Cedar Education Lending. When not talking with a student she finds time to write personal finance articles for some of her favorite blogs.