I thought it fitting that the first practical post for this blog would be for the use of mint.com. No, I am not a paid spokesperson for this company (though would gladly accept remuneration for this free advertising! You may find me at firstname.lastname@example.org, corporate tycoons). However, as a graduate student who is not necessarily the most type-A person on the planet, I found this a completely helpful tool. In order to prevent (or stop) the hemorrhaging of money that can so easily occur in this phase of life, it’s really quite useful to know, first and foremost, where exactly your money goes. Enter mint.com.
Mint gathers all of your financial information into one very secure location (as good as – or better than – online banking sites). I have it on good authority that they hire “white knights” (good hackers) to try to breach their system and no one has been able to do it yet. Mint provides you a single forum to see your bills, credit cards, and bank accounts, so that you then have a clear picture of what you spend your money on and what your financial situation looks like. It’s even color coordinated into delightful categories! As a decidedly visual learner, I found this interface to be quite effective.
No, this isn’t my actual account. Aren’t you adorable if you thought it was? This is a nice image from their website… mine actually looks more like this:
As you can see from my “chart,” I’m far from perfect. The doctoral program necessitates a certain aptitude for budgeting and making fiscally smart decisions. After adjusting my lifestyle from my previous life as a mid-level non-profit manager which obviously brought home the metaphorical bacon, I have arrived at a mode of living that works for me. My pie chart is pretty basic: bills, beans and rice, and wine. A girl has got to have her priorities.
Mint.com tries to save users money by suggesting ways to save that are personalized and objective (i.e., “Try not to spend so much money shopping online.” Point taken.). The company claims that users are presented with an average of $1,000 in savings opportunities in their first session. The service also sends users email and SMS alerts about upcoming bills, low balances or unusual spending. Users may text BAL to MyMint (696468) to receive current balances for all of the accounts they track using the service. Its iPhone app became the #1 iTunes Finance app on the day it launched. Furthermore, this website gives you the ability to set goals, such as save x amount of dollars for either something responsible (paying off a student loan) or something fun (graduate conference! new computer! books! food other than ramen noodles!).
The point is this: know where your money goes so that you can adjust your spending habits accordingly. I was initially surprised at how much money I have spent on groceries and have tried to amend my ways. Do you use other budgeting tools? Let me know if you do!