Thursday, October 18, 2012

Budgeting for Dummies

I think there must be some sort of law about the proportion of income to spending. When the first goes up, the second concurrently expands to match it.

Or is that just me?

Anyway, I am finding myself tight on funds. Why is this so? All last winter, I made ends meet on half the income I'm now enjoying.

Where's it all going?

This strange and unsettling mystery has inspired me to get back on the budgeting stick, and one of my favorite tools is Mint. (This isn't a sponsored post; I'm just sharing something I find useful.)

In a nutshell, Mint allows you to keep track of your money, and it's:

  1. Free.
  2. Easy.

Quick Start Guide
  1. Sign up, add your bank accounts and other financial information.
  2. Go to the "Transactions" page and make sure everything is coming up in the right category. (Sometimes it wants to label my paycheck deposits "medical bills." And when you shop for groceries at WalMart, they show up as "shopping" instead of "food & dining.")
  3. Go to the "Trends" page and view your spending by category.
  4. Be amazed. So THAT'S how you spent a thousand dollars last month. 
  5. Go to the "Budget" page and set up a tally of your income and expected expenses.
  6. Periodically check back in at the "Transactions" tab and make sure everything is being filed in the right category.

The organizational freak in me really loves Mint. It shows you what you're spending per month on, say, gas or groceries, down to the last cent. 

And if you're getting close to exceeding any of your budgets, you can set it to send you reminders!

As far as security goes, I've never heard anything to its detriment; they have a lengthy, rather impressive sounding page on privacy and security, too. (Biometric recognition procedures, anyone?) 

I just finished updating my account (I let it lapse a year ago when my finances were small enough to keep track of entirely in my head, I think,) and I have $28 left in my food budget for the month. It is too bad you can't upload receipts and see how on earth one person could eat $120 of food in two and a half weeks. Sheesh, girl.

Oh, for the record? It was new tires that messed up my finances for the month. They were more than I expected and I forgot to figure in the extra. If I had been using Mint. . .that wouldn't have happened!

Well, lesson learned.

How do you keep on top of your budget?

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Too Much Time On My Hands