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Are you interested in learning how to create a Mint budget using Mint.com? This free budget planning software is something that I’ve used to manage my personal finances for several years.
The only problem though is that I never quite figured out what all the little tabs and shortcuts were. It works great for creating a monthly budget of income and expenses, as well as creating long-term goals for investing and saving.
As an small business owner I like using Mint.com to separate my personal finances from my business accounts while still being able to see all of my bank accounts, loans, and credit cards at a glance.
And did I mention it’s completely free?
Getting started with Mint.com
Mint’s budgeting software and accompanying Mint Bills app aggregates all of your finances, bills, and budgets in one place.
The online program, which is also available as a mobile app, was created by the makers of TurboTax and QuickBooks. So it also syncs well with these products for year-end tax reports and accounting needs.
Creating a Mint budget is a simple process but one of the most popular features of this budget planning software. Here’s how to get started using Mint.
Step 1: Open a new account
Head over to Mint’s homepage and click the “Sign Up” button. All you need to create a new account is an email address, password, country, and zip code. Within a few seconds you can access your Mint.com account and start adding your banking info.
Step 2: Connect your financial accounts
Before you can start using Mint.com effectively you have to connect and sync your financial accounts. Don’t worry this is a read-only feature so you won’t be able to access your bank accounts to make transfers or move money around. It’s completely secure.
This next step will likely be the most time-consuming part of setting up your Mint.com account, depending on how many accounts you have. To save some time though, I suggest you have all banking login information handy.
Under the “Accounts” section simply add your bank account from the list. Mint.com syncs with nearly every financial institution available, so if you don’t see yours listed simply do a quick search.
Once your regular checking accounts have been connected and synced, it’s time to add your other financial accounts, like credit cards, car loans, and investments. This will give you an accurate picture of your entire finances, so you can see your complete net worth.
The most commonly used information will be the various tabs on the upper right-hand corner, including Overview, Transactions, Budgets, and Goals.
Step 3: Create a Mint budget plan
One of the best features of using Mint.com is that you can track your expenses with a customizable budget. Then at the end of each month you simply review the categories and check-in with your spending history.
My husband and I do this at the beginning of each month so we know what our target spending plan is for the coming month. Then we check-in with the mobile app on our iPhone to see how our spending stacks up. If we’re spending too much, we dial it back. Or if we have extra to spend at the end of the month, we go out on a nice dinner date.
You can get started by clicking the “Budgets” tab in the upper right hand corner, then create a custom budget based on your desired categories and spending numbers.
Each budget comes with a category already established, based on the average consumer’s budget. In addition, each category has a subcategory associated with it for better categorization. But you can choose your own custom categories for spending and income.
When inputting categories for your income I suggest looking at your actual take home pay figures, then you can accurately create a proper budget based on this number. After all, a proper budget means you’re spending less than you earn, so you want to know exactly how much money you’re making each month.
Now go down through each category and create the rest of your budget expenses. Once you’ve chosen how often this particular expense will occur, (monthly, every few months, or once) click “Save”.
One really cool feature about using Mint.com to track your monthly spending is that it will show your spending versus the U.S. average spending in that category. This allows you to gauge your spending habits and adjust them up or down accordingly.
When I recently compared our monthly grocery budget (which I thought was extremely high) to the average U.S. couple’s budget, I was surprised to find out that ours was actually very normal. Now I’ve stopped having such ridiculous expectations for our trips to the grocery store.
Step 4: Take the next step with financial goals
Aside from the extensive budget features, Mint.com is also a great tool for setting financial goals for important life events like purchasing a home, getting out of debt, or building an emergency fund.
To being, choose from their list of “Goals” after clicking the butting in the upper right hand corner. If your goal isn’t listed, you can choose to create a custom one for your specific needs.
The way that your goal is calculated is based on the amount of money you need to reach your desired number, and when the final date for completion is.
The Goals feature is extremely helpful for keeping yourself financially accountable, and Mint provides actionable steps to keep you motivated and on track during your journey.
Step 5: Hack your Mint budget with The Mint Manual
If you’re really serious about transforming your finances this year, and utilizing Mint.com’s free budgeting and expense tracking features, this guide will help you do it.
The Mint Manual: A shortcut to mastering and saving money with Mint.com by Larry Ludwig of InvestorJunkie.com, is a simple step-by-step guide that will show you how to use Mint.com while saving you tons of time and headache.
It costs $29 but pays for itself when you can avoid an overdraft fee (which can cost $34 or more!). The Mint Manual also includes instructions for using different types of devices and apps.
The design and format is beautiful, clean and easy to understand. The Mint Manual is made up of 5 stand alone sections, in case you don’t use the other types of devices (which include the iPad and iPhone apps, as well as Android phone and tablet apps).
The author, Larry Ludwig doesn’t just do the cut and dry tips either, he includes screenshots, secret tips and even a cheat sheet.
He even uses his own finances as examples and even displays a few super nerd sections (that you can skip if you’re not a financial nerd). There is so much more to Mint than most of us realize, and The Mint Manual fixes that by showing short-cuts to all the good stuff.
I’ve referred to this guide many times to help organize my personal Mint account and prep my finances for tax time. I know it will help you hack your finances too!
Click here to purchase the (newly updated and revamped!) Mint Manual and start spending less time managing your money and more time enjoying it.