More than once my mom has said, “If Craig can get Jessi on a budget, he can do anything.” And honestly, I think she’s probably right.
When Craig and I got married, money management was probably the biggest source of contention. He was a big-time saver and I was a big-time spender. And because we were complete opposites, our perception of one another was pretty extreme: I thought he didn’t have enough fun and he thought I’d buy a used pair of socks just because they were on sale. It took us over a year of
fighting discussion and continual compromising before we found a solution that has worked fabulously for us.
I had heard of Mint.com before, but because I wasn’t a budgeter, I obviously hadn’t really explored it. This single tool has hands-down gotten me on track with our budget. How does Mint work? You can attach your credit cards and bank accounts to their website and when money comes out of any of those accounts, you can allocate them to a budget. There a ton of ways to visually see your spending habits through graphs and charts. And while I don’t delve into those things, Craig does quite regularly.
I know that for many people, providing that information to a third party is scary. We are comfortable with it. Information can be taken from anywhere, anytime you purchase anything online. Working at a financial, I feel the most important thing is to pay close attention to the charges coming through to your accounts and knowing the steps you would need to take should your information be compromised. We’ve had credit cards compromised in the past and between the card’s fraud protection and us using Mint (and therefore seeing the transaction with the use of our app, rather than having to log into our individual credit card accounts), we catch it almost immediately. So, in our case, Mint has actually helped us realize when we’ve been compromised. That being said, only do what you’re comfortable with. Using online tools like Mint might not be in everyone’s best interest.
Craig put a lot of time and effort in on the front end. He created categories that include things like: mortgage, utilities, insurance, kids, doctor, dogs (things like food and toys), veterinarian, groceries, entertainment, home goods, etc. We have an “uncategorized” budget for things like gifts or items that don’t really “fit” into any particular budget. Each of these categories work a little bit differently.
Any money left in any of the budgets rolls over to the next month. So, if we don’t treat ourselves to meals out or other entertainment one month, it means in the future we can “splurge” a little bit more if we want. That feature also helps us build up emergency funds. For example, the veterinary budget obviously isn’t used each month, but we let it accumulate, so that if one of the pups has an unplanned vet visit, we have the money already set aside. On the same token, we have months that we go over on some budgets. What happens in that situation is our overage is automatically deducted from the next month, so we can try to get back on track.
Some budgets like our mortgage and insurance are calculated to be exactly what we pay each month for those items. Obviously nothing rolls over, but we still have that money accounted for. Does that make sense? Every dollar that we earn or are gifted is accounted for; it’s physically put into a category. That sounds like it’s a lot of work, but in reality it simply takes a click of a button and a selection from your category list.
Craig also has a predetermined amount of money that we are “saving” each month. That money never shows up in any of our individual budgets; it shows up in our bank account (obviously), but it never shows up in Mint. I never know it exists, which is probably a good thing. 😉
Do you see what I mean now!? Craig put in a ton of time and effort into this – creating the categories, determining how much money should be allocated for each area, etc. But, despite that – we still had some tension.
I regularly heard questions like, “What did you buy from Target?” or “Did you stop at Starbucks again this morning?” When Craig asked me those things I felt like he was micromanaging me and I’d get mad. So mad. When, in reality, Craig was simply trying to figure out how to categorize charges coming through to Mint.
How did we solve that? Well, we added two more categories: Craig and Jessica. Every month, we are each given an “allowance” of sorts. Money that we can spend – no questions asked. So, if I want to spend mine on Starbucks, so be it. I don’t hear any more questions. If Craig doesn’t recognize a charge on our credit card, he simply puts it into my budget. And you best believe that if it isn’t “mine,” I figure out where it goes. hahahaha. I keep a hawk’s eye on my budget. I still have months that I’m over, but Craig and I agreed that as long as I get it back on track the next month, it’s okay.
Craig initially set everything up using their website. Now, we both have the Mint app on our phone for easy access. Do you know how many times I’m at the mall wondering if I can “afford” that new pair of shoes that month? I seriously love that I can easily take a look to see if I can buy it without breaking our agreement.
– We’ve bought concert tickets in January for a show in July. We can move the purchase to July’s budget. So, while we are technically spending the money in January, it won’t hit our entertainment budget until July. Yes, we are still spending the money in January, but for our purposes this is how we prefer to track our expenses.
– You can completely eliminate a purchase from all budgets. This has come in handy when we are buying gifts. I can hop into the app and make a purchase “disappear” so Craig doesn’t see it. If he were to log into our credit card website, he obviously would, but we so rarely do that anymore. That works for us, because we often have discussion about “budgets” for holiday purchases and trust that we will hold each other to it. At a later point we can add it back in so we account for our purchases.
– If you have repeat purchases from the same location or vendor, Mint recognizes that and will auto-categorize those purchases. It helps cut down on the manual labor of categorizing. Also, it helps for the times when I make my fourth Jane purchase for the month and Craig doesn’t have to get judge-y on what I’m spending my money on. hahahaha. It’s embarrassing. Jane is addicting.
– It’s easily adjustable. Since I’ve been on maternity leave, our income has obviously become lower. Craig was able to very easily go in and change the amount in budgets like entertainment, Jessica, and Craig. Hopefully once I’m back at work he will remember to go back in and put them where they were! 😉
– Email notifications! Craig gets an email when there is a large deposit or large withdrawal. It helps him keep tabs on what’s goin’ on! It also helps remind you when credit card payments are due.
– Track your net worth. You can also add in other debts like student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc to help determine your net worth; that’s also easily tracked by nifty graphs and stuff.
I know that a system like this wouldn’t work for everyone. We literally track everything we spend. But, honestly, if left to my own devices, when I retire I’d be living on cheese sandwiches, living in a cardboard box in your front yard. But, instead, I feel really confident about our financial situation. I know that no amount of retirement money will ever really be “enough,” but we will have a nice little nest egg when the time comes. And if for some reason it really isn’t enough, thank goodness we have a son now – and we can always move into his basement.
If you have any questions, please let me know – I’d be happy to share more!
this post is not sponsored