How to use Mint.com to help control your spending

Perhaps you’ve heard of Mint.com or maybe you're just now hearing of it, in either case you’re looking for help in controlling your spending. Think of this as a quick, step by step guide to getting instant help with knowing where your money is going

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  • Perhaps you’ve heard of Mint.com or maybe you're just now hearing of it, in either case you’re looking for help in controlling your spending.

  • Think of this as a quick, step by step guide to getting instant help with knowing where your money is going in real time! Wouldn’t it be great to get an email when you’ve spent your limit for the month on meals and entertainment? Mint can do just that!

  • Let’s get started:

    1. Go to www.mint.com.

    2. Complete the quick sign up process — it’s free.

    3. You’ll then be prompted to set up all of your accounts. This will take a few minutes, but if you already do your banking and manage your credit cards on line, this should only take about one minute for each account. Mint.com will be doing the work before you know it.

    4. Click on “Transactions” on the menu, which will display a list of your transactions going back about 90 days.

    5. Sort by “category” by clicking on the column header for category.

    6. Now, skim over the transactions looking for category errors. The big problems will be that many are labeled as “uncategorized.” Mint.com does this when it can’t figure out how to assign a category to a transaction. Depending on the number of transactions, this can take a while the first time. If you check back with Mint.com at least once a week (better daily) you’ll find it is no trouble at all to check and correct categories.

    7. OK, click on “Budgets” to review suggested budgets for your discretionary spending. Mint.com makes budgeting easy and doesn’t require you to budget for every single category. It will prompt you to focus on your discretionary spending areas — those categories where you have the most control.

    8. Just hover the mouse over each budget category and you can nudge the budget up or down to put it where you want it. When you exceed the limit, you’ll get an email from Mint.com alerting you. Hope that email doesn’t come before the middle of the month — that can make for a long few weeks trying to spend zero on, say, fast food for the last half of the month.

    9. Next, click on “Goals” in the menu. You’ll be presented with a variety of goal templates, choose one to get started (if none of the canned goal templates fit your goal, click “Custom Goal.”

    10. Follow the interview to set up your goal. In just a few moments, Mint.com will help you figure out how much you need to reach your goal, how much you’ll need to save each month and where to put the money you save!

    11. Alright, click “Trends” on the menu and you can view graphs of your spending by category or over time. The longer you keep your information accurate, the more valuable the data becomes.

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  • In just one hour, you can go from Mint.com neophyte to Mint.com mogul. If you don’t like it, you can try Quicken, which is software you install on your computer that is more powerful and, unlike Mint.com, it isn’t free.

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Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.

Website: http://www.yourmarkontheworld.com

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