You’ve probably heard it time and time again, but one of the most important principles in personal finance is also extremely simple: Spend less than you earn. While this concept is easy to understand, in the midst of our society it can be difficult to put into practice.
The biggest key to getting to the point of spending less than you earn is to have a well-written, detailed budget that you stick to every month. This keeps you in control of where your money is going and ensures that you have enough to meet your needs. So many financial hardships could be avoided by simply having a proper budget.This is why you NEED to be using an online budgeting tool.
There are a ton of budgeting and personal finance apps. My favorite is Mint.com, and it just so happens to be one of the most popular money apps available. Currently 15 million people use Mint to help keep track of their finances and it is ranked top 10 in the iOS App Store.
This is not to discount other ways of writing out a budget, whether that be on paper, an Excel spreadsheet, the “Envelopes System,” among others. However, even if you currently use one of these methods, pairing it with Mint can still bring a lot more convenience and clarity to your overall financial picture.
Here are the reasons why Mint is such a useful tool, and why you should be using it:
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With Mint, you can link all your financial accounts securely in one place so that you have a complete look at your financial situation. After you sync your accounts, they’re all updated automatically every time you log in. Log into the website via your desktop computer, or use the mobile app while on the go.
This feature lets you allocate how much money you want to budget for a variety of categories such as rent, utilities, groceries, gas, and more. There are also subcategories, for example under food and dining you have the option of selecting fast food, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Whenever you make a transaction, Mint will automatically categorize it for you! (Note: It can take some time for Mint to learn your spending habits. You might have to manually re-categorize some of the transactions yourself, but it is extremely easy to do.) Having your expenses categorized makes it easy to see how much money you have left for the month, for each category.
Similar to setting up your budget categories, you can set specific goals to work towards such as saving for a vacation, retirement, and paying off debt. Mint lets you track the progress that you’ve been making towards these goals and projects when the goal will be reached.
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Mint makes it easy to view every single transaction you make from the homepage. This lets you see exactly where your money is going and within what category each transaction is being placed. View your trends to see how your spending habits and net income have been changing over time. You also have the option of viewing how much you’ve spent for a particular category month to month.
Select the Cash Flow box to see how much you’ve spent vs. how much you’ve earned this month, along with a categorized list breaking down the amounts within each category. This is incredibly helpful for seeing where your money is going and whether you’re in the positive or the negative for the month.
Receive alerts within the app when you exceed your spending for a certain budget category, when large deposits are made, when large purchases are made, or when bills are due. You can also choose to receive alerts via email or text message to make sure you always know what’s going on with your spending habits.
Other features include the ability to access your credit score for free, an advice section, and bill reminders.
If you happen to decide that Mint isn’t for you, or are looking for another app to pair with it, be sure to check out other popular budgeting apps such as: Personal Capital, Learnvest, EveryDollar, and You Need a Budget.
Overall, with so many helpful resources available nowadays, you should be using Mint or some other budgeting app. These apps are key components to making sure you spend less than you earn, knowing the full picture of your financial situation, and staying on track to reach your goals. They bring convenience and peace of mind, limiting the hassle of making a budget and sticking to it.