Our old habit: Rarely talk about finances, unless we are in crisis mode—then get all stressed and have that stress spill into other areas of our life.
Some habits are bad, and this old one was bad! So we have been working on a new habit for several months now: to review our budget together weekly. The whole point of this is to keep a better track of our finances and to ensure we are on the same page with our spending, anticipated expenses and financial goals.
But this has been a particularly difficult habit to stick to because I’m not a fan of talking about our finances and when Scott pulls out the Excel spreadsheets my eyes glaze over… and I sometimes become narcoleptic. I hate to admit this, but sometimes just flat out fall asleep mid-finance-conversation. (Add “Be more respectful to my husband” to my list of things to work on…). Thankfully I have a patient husband who knows and loves me, despite my flaws. Discussing finances so frequently is new to us, but like everything we will get better at it with time.
The Excel spreadsheet (for those who know how to use it, like my handy husband) has the ability to be customized in an unlimited number of ways. However, Excel also has its limitations. A few years ago we tried out online budgeting, but we became frustrated because it wasn’t easy to use and we weren’t able to customize it in the ways we wanted. But in the last few years, online budgeting software has come a long way!
After reviewing the features and prices of a few different options, we decided to try out Mint.com. Mint is completely free and has the feature of being able to automatically sync with all of our online banking accounts and compile all of the transactions into one easy-to-read online spreadsheet. Even more convenient is the iPhone app that allows me to instantly track all of my spending (and input and categorize my cash purchases) with a simple pin code (and with iOS8, now with just my fingerprint). The program automatically sorts and categorizes my purchases and tells me how we’re doing on our budget whenever I’d like to know. And when I’ve neglected to think about my budget all week, not only will Scott remind me that we need to talk about it, but Mint sends me an awesome weekly e-mail summarizing my expenses for the last week and shows me where I’m at for the month. Scott and I both get this email on Sundays and it not only reminds us to have our little talk, but also is a great tool for helping us stay focused.
I’m going to try not falling asleep as I write this next section, but Scott has also mentioned that he likes that he can export all of the transactions and data stored in Mint to an Excel file when he’d like to run some additional analysis on our spending and financial goals. The budget is very easy to build and the program offers a ton of additional free features. Most notable is a free quarterly credit score – no strings or trial plans attached. Also included is the ability to set different financial goals and track your progress. With just a few clicks you can sort your income, investments, assets, and expenses and review any trends. Whew, still awake!
What else is cool is that even while living overseas and shopping at Japanese stores with obscure names, it often guesses the category of my spending correctly. But when it’s wrong it takes just a couple of clicks to correct it and set it to automatically categorize all of my future purchases the same. Last – but not least – is my favorite feature of being able to quickly and easily input cash transactions on my phone. The best part is that it is set to automatically deduct this expense from my last ATM withdrawal, so I’m not counting my “expenses” twice.
If you’ve been looking for a simple way to build a budget and start tracking your purchases, I would definitely recommend that you consider checking out Mint.com!
**We have no affiliation with Mint.com. We just really, truly love their budgeting software and app!**