Curious about the way we spend our money, I researched the best budgeting apps. Quicken and Mint showed up as the top budgeting apps – and more research really showed Mint to be the best free budgeting app rather than just tracking spending.
So, I downloaded it (it’s free!), set it up, synced to our bank account, and within minutes had our spending detailed into categories including food, auto, home, and education. The sub-category of restaurants made my jaw drop. Lunches out and picking up dinner rather than cooking several times a month really didn’t seem like a big deal until I saw the figure as a whole.
Eating our money does not seem like a smart way to spend our income.
So, we have completely changed our eating habits (and other spending habits) in the past few weeks – and it has made a shocking difference. What has surprised me the most is the super simple changes we made to produce such drastic results, just by seeing a breakdown of our expenditures.
A few things about the app, if you’re interested in trying it…
Tips for getting started with Mint
- The computer version is much more detailed than the iPhone or iPad, so if you have access to a computer, I recommend starting with the website on your computer.
- You can add as many accounts as you’d like – all bank accounts, savings, loans, credit cards, mortgage, investments… you can view everything in one place.
- Mint categorizes all of your transactions into categories for you (fuel, restaurants, groceries, etc.) but you can change any to other categories easily. For example, we shop at the Walmart Neighborhood Market and edited the category from shopping to groceries. We had to make very few adjustments, however, and you can choose to always have an expense show up in a particular category. Now, when we shop at Walmart, it automatically is categorized as groceries.
- There is an iPhone and iPad version, so you can instantly access your account information at all times.
- My husband and I share the Mint app login, so we can both view our account detail and budget.
Tips for creating a budget in Mint
- You can add fixed amounts, like your mortgage, and then give yourself a budget for other spending. The app gives a recommendation based on past spending by category. Groceries, shopping, gas/fuel – you can account for everything in the app.
- You can adjust your budget month to month based on spending. As you spend money, the app categorizes it, so you can see how much you have left in your grocery budget or your shopping budget. This is extremely helpful!
- You can use the tags if you want to track your spending for something specific – like vacation or Christmas shopping, or even if you’re throwing a party. You can view everything tagged at once, to get a grand total of how much the items cost collectively. Each of those items will still go into a regular category like fuel or restaurants.
- You can set goals for yourself and the app will show how much you need to set aside each month to reach those goals. Goals can be anything from setting aside a certain amount for saving or investing – or paying off a loan or credit card debt.
Now we’ve implemented a few minor changes (like eating at home instead of getting take-out all of the time!) and have seen significant differences in the categories we want to reduce in order to save or invest money for our future. I cannot believe such a simple tool is free – and highly recommend downloading it!