Budgeting 101: Mint

Screenshot 2015-09-17 at 11.52.49 AM

Being a full-time college student and part-time employee, I have a delicate balance in my hands. Free time is hard to come by but I don’t mind because I know that my balancing act is helping to cut down on college debt. Still, it’s important to make sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel besides just a lack of debt. For me, that light is travel.

Going to new places, meeting interesting people, and immersing myself in other cultures is what I live for. To get there, I budget my funds so I make sure there is enough to live the life I have planned in my head. (The one where I gently throw my hair over my shoulder when I meet that guy who backpacked all over Europe as I prepare him for an audio-representation of my travels.)

I don’t have the time or desire to sit down with a pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet or to hold onto receipts like my grandmother. Instead, I do what any good millennial would: I use an app.

Mint is a completely free app by Intuit, the people who make TurboTax (which I am also a dedicated fan of). By completely free I mean no fees upfront, no trial period, no popups. Really free for your enjoyment and use. How often does that happen?

You can use the app from your phone or your computer. Once inside, you can connect all of your accounts like credit cards from your bank or stores, checking accounts and debit cards, savings accounts, IRAs, you name it. The app will track each purchase you make and categorize it based on your budget. No need for receipts- the power of online banking has you covered.

The first month you use Mint, you can set goals for yourself or use the program’s estimated budgeting goals. After that, you can stick to where you’re comfortable or be like me and treat personal spending as a cut-throat game of savings. I see how I can get those budgets down, not because I need to but because once you see the way spending adds up, it seems downright necessary. It doesn’t matter how many times your mom told you that packing your lunch is a lot cheaper than eating at Chipotle four times a week. Until you see your burritos lined up in dollar signs, it’s hard to validate the switch to PB&J. (More on how to not have to eat PB&J but still save money to come.)

The app also offers helpful tips and tricks based on your spending. For example, if you have a low interest savings account, Mint will show you alternatives with the same monthly fees that offer better rates. You can even get your Equifax credit score for free through the app with helpful tips on how to improve your score for next time.

Make sure once you get down the budgeting aspect of Mint you set goals for yourself in the computer-only “goals” tab. This is a great feature for my fellow (or future) world travelers who want a visual representation of how long it will take to get where they’re going.

Try it out and tell me what you think! Know an alternative? Comment below!

-BGB

Photo courtesy of Mint.com

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