The word “budget” has always made me uncomfortable. As soon as I hear it, I start stressing about every money-related topic under the sun. I ask myself panicky questions like, “How are you going to pay your taxes?,” “Why haven’t you saved more for retirement?,” and “Why haven’t you paid off your debt?” I hate thinking about financial stuff, so instead, I block it all out. Somehow, I became the kind of person who only pays the phone bill when she gets a robo-call from Verizon reminding her that it’s past due.
I want to be better with money, and from time to time, I’ve tried setting up budgets for myself. It’s always a disaster. Either I make my spending limits too strict (like a diet that cuts out everything tasty) and can’t stick to them long-term, or a big, unforeseen expense comes along and throws everything off. Budgets always leave me feeling like a financial failure.
That all changed when I downloaded the Mint app. Mint is run by Intuit, and it’s free to use (which means you’ll see a few ads in it, mostly for financial services). It’s also extremely popular — the Android version alone has been downloaded more than five million times. And better yet, you can access it on your phone or computer.
At first, I was hesitant about giving an app the logins for my bank accounts, but after reading all the positive reviews, I decided to give it a shot. The moment I opened Mint on my phone, I started feeling better about the whole budget thing. Mint makes budgeting cute, colorful, and easy.
As soon as you add your bank information, Mint analyzes what you’ve spent money on in the past, and automatically generates a budget for you based on your history. I use my debit card for almost everything, and the app instantly sorted my purchases into basic budget categories like “mobile phone” and “groceries.” It’s easy to input my occasional cash transactions, so I have a record of them, too.
When you set up a budget on your own, using a notebook or a spreadsheet, the conventional wisdom is to start out by tracking every dollar you spend for a few weeks or a month. Mint does that work for you, so you know the budget it suggests is realistic. The other thing I love about Mint is that, because it monitors my spending in various categories, it can notify me when I’m close to my spending limits. Mint’s customized alerts are easy to set up, and it’s neat to know right away if I’m spending more on groceries this month than I have in the past.
I thought it could never happen, but the Mint app has transformed me from a budget-hater to a budget nerd. I can’t wait to see the long-term effect it has on my finances, because I’m sure it’s going to be good. In fact, things are already looking up. While poking around for bank info to add to Mint, I found the login for an old 401k account I’d forgotten all about. It felt like free money, even though it’s been there all along. I am so grateful to Mint for helping me get my financial head on straight, and I highly recommend it to anyone else out there who’s feeling financially clueless.