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In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube, Mint.com, Etsy, and more. Check back every Monday for tips on topics from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.
Hi, I'm Jess Stratton and welcome to Monday Productivity Pointers. This week we're talking about mint.com. Now I already showed you how mint.com can read in all your financial accounts and spit it back out to you in a easy to read way. But it can also make behavior changes based on your actions online. For example, it can help you set budgets and goals to save up for things like paying off a credit card or taking a trip. It can also alert you when things change.
For example, if you've made a really big purchase or drop below a certain amount of money. Mint because it has access to your line item and transaction statements. It can easily categorize things and show you what your spending habits are. Now these results can be startling, especially if you've never analyzed your accounts this way. For example, you may not have any idea how much you are actually spending at coffee shops until Mint showed you how often you hit the coffee shop. You can set a budget to keep on track and watch what you spend there.
Check back often and see how you're doing with that budget. Today we're going to set a budget and a goal using Mint, so let's get started. I'm logged into mint.com right now using their dummy data account and I'm on the home page. In fact, you can see some alerts right here on this homepage. For example, it's telling me that I spent a little more on shopping than I usually spend, and on sporting goods. So let's go set some budgets. I'm going to click Budgets from the top. And Mint already has some canned budgets in there. Things like gas and fuel, student loans, entertainments.
Here's a coffee shop budget. And it's going to compare that with my income. Over here on the left, I can see how much income it's pulled in. Now it's the beginning of the month. I haven't gotten a paycheck yet in this sample data account, so the income so far is zero. That's also why how much I've spent on all these things is pretty low. But I'm not so much interested in how much I've spent so far versus what the budget limit really is. If I want to save for a goal, I'm going to cut out any unnecessary spending, so I'm going to take a look at this entertainment budget right here.
Now mint.com gave us a canned budget of $125 a month. It's important to note that it pulls these entertainment categories from those transaction line item categories. Entertainment is an umbrella category for things like movies and DVDs and going to the movies. I'll show you that in a minute. The first thing I want to do is lower this budget. I'm going to try to stop any unnecessary spending. So I can come down here where it says it's $125 that it's already gotten budgeted.
I'm going to click the Left Arrow and move that down to 25. So if I can make good on this budget, I'll save $100 a month that I can put towards a goal. Now anything that I spend that goes in this entertainment category, the green slider is automatically going to adjust according to this budget. So very quickly, I can log in and visually see how I'm doing. I can change this at any time. I can click Edit Details and adjust the budget.
Or, I can even adjust it so it happens every few months, not just one month. I can even set my own budgets. I'm going to come up here and choose Create a Budget. Here's where I choose a category. Now this list should look familiar to you because it's the same list that you'll see in the transaction statements. I'm going to try to spend less on parking. Then this may mean that I have to walk farther away to get some free parking lots, but that's okay. I'm trying to save money. So I'm going to set a parking budget, every month for $25.
So now I can start tracking, how close I'm hitting that parking budget. I'll be able to find out how much I'm spending on parking every month, very quickly. I hit Save, and my budget is set. Now let's just do a quick refresher of where it's actually getting that data from. I'm going to come up here to the Transaction tab. Here's all the line items for all my cash and credit accounts. As you'll see, here's the categories. If I come down here to my movies and DVDs, I select the category. And I can see that it's in the Entertainment category.
So, what I have spent for movies and DVDs is automatically going to get deducted from my entertainment budget. Just as anything in this category is. So that's how budgets work. Now we've managed to save a little bit of money every month, as long as I follow through with it. So now, let's set a goal. Up here on the Goals tab, I can choose any of these pre-built goals that mint.com's going to help me achieve. In this case, I want to pay off a loan. So I'm going to select Pay Off Loans. Now mint.com knows what my loans are because these are accounts that I've already added to Mint.
If I haven't added an account, it's not going to show up here. I'm going to un-check my car loan because I'm only interested in paying off this student loan. So mint.com already knows what the balance is, but it's up to me to put in the APR and the monthly payment that I make on this. Let's say I pay $125 towards this loan every month. I can give it a name for my reference. And then, click Next. Here's where it's asking me how much extra I can pay per month on this loan. Now I already know I adjusted my budget to allow for another $100. I'm going to try to get some more in there.
If I set it to $300 per month, it's going to tell me how much I'm going to save in interest and when my debt is going to be paid off by. It even tells me how to do it. Make my existing payments and pay an extra $175 towards it. I can select Save Goal, hit Close. And now, any time I want to see how I'm doing with this goal, I can come up here to the Goals tab and watch the green bar go up as I'm getting closer to paying off this loan. I can click View Details.
And delete the goal at any time or if I pay it off early, I can Mark as Complete. So that's how easy it is to set budgets and goals with mint.com.
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