Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If you are looking to cut back spending, one of the most important things to do is to see where you are spending your money. Track it for a few months and you can see what amount you should be spending, when you overspend and where the best areas to cut back are.

I recommend as a way to track and budget your money. It is a completely secure website that takes the information from all your financial accounts and compiles it in one place. I’m sure you’ve been using a program like Quicken for years, so why should you switch to mint? First off, mint automatically updates every time you log into the site. It also automatically labels every purchase you make. Say you went to McDonalds, mint knows that is a fast food purchase and labels it as such. You can also set it up rules for how mint will label your transactions. If you only go to McDonalds for the kids, then you can have a rule that labels it kids instead of fast food. The way it breaks down your transactions is also interesting. First it separates it by general categories such as food, entertainment, bills, etc. Then you go more specific within those categories with groceries, coffee shops, restaurants, fast food, etc. You can track your spending on every level. The pie charts it gives you are also great for a visual breakdown of where your money is going each month. You can set up budgets for each month, both overall and for specific transactions. The ease at which mint compiles all your accounts and automatically categorizes everything for you as well as the variety of functions they offer are definitely worth switching for.

However, my favorite function of mint is their notification system. You can set mint up to notify you either by email or text message when:

  • Low balance in any account
  • When your credit card bill is due
  • When you approach your credit limit on any card
  • When you spend above average in any category
  • When you exceed a budget you’ve set up
  • When you make a large purchase or withdrawal

How does this help you? Imagine you are on vacation for a week without a computer or any way to measure your spending. You can get a text when you’re going over your budget for food for the week. Even better though, is the potential to find out if you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. You don’t have to wait until your bank finds out and sends you a statement. Mint will notice when there is an unusually large purchase or withdrawal. is a great financial tool, and I’ll be giving you more financial tools to help you save money.

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