Despite All Odds, The Financial Tool People Love to Hate is Becoming Cool

By Matt Bellconstruction-370588_1280

If you were to build a house, you wouldn’t just show up on the job site with a hammer, a box of nails, and some two-by-fours, and start flailing away. You’d have a plan—a blueprint.

Having a plan before you hammer the first nail is essential if you’re going to build the house properly.

Why is it, then, that so many people resist the idea of using a plan for building their financial life—a budget?

I once commissioned a research study in which budgeters and non-budgeters were asked about their perceptions of a budget. The gap between in their answers couldn’t have been wider.

Non-budgeters used words like “restrictive,” “rigid,” and “constraining” to describe budgets. One non-budgeter explained his resistance with humorous honestly by saying, “If I used a budget, I’d have to think before I bought something.”

office-594132_1280We wouldn’t want that, would we?

By contrast, budgeters felt “in charge” of their money, said a budget “allows me to control my spending,” “keeps me in a position of knowledge and control,” “allows you to plan for the future,” “helps me save money,” and “helps keep emotion out of spending decisions.”

Some non-budgeters acknowledged that they would probably benefit by using a budget. One said, “I think it would open our eyes to how much money we waste each month on non-essentials. I think I would recognize that we could easily pay for all expenses without ever having to use credit cards.”

But even their own reasoning wasn’t enough to get them to actually use a budget.

When asked why they don’t use a budget, one non-budgeter explained that “trying to stick to it wouldn’t be easy,” and tracking how much is spent in each category “seems like a pain.” That same person acknowledged not saving enough for their children’s future tuition costs.

The Bible tells us we’re stewards—managers—of God’s resources, and that we’re to keep tabs on the stuff that’s under our care.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” – Proverbs 27:23

Not many of us are tending flocks or herds these days, but most of us do have some money flowing into and out of our lives. With nearly half of all adults in the U.S. acknowledging it would be tough to come up with $400 to cover an emergency, perhaps more of us could stand to give a little more attention to our cash flow.mint-life-logo

The good news is that things are changing in the budgeting space. With the advent of free online budget tools like Mint.com, it’s never been easier to create and use a budget. It wasn’t that long ago that budgeting was a conversation killer. Now it’s something very close to fun—even cool.

People using today’s high-tech budget tools don’t even seem to realize they’re using a budget. In workshops, when I ask people how many use a budget, I still don’t get very many hands in the air. But later, when I ask how many use Mint, I get a lot more.

What exactly do they think they’re doing, if not budgeting? “Checkin’ on my money” is a common answer.

Works for me.

Do you use a budget? Why or why not? If you do, what’s your tool of choice?

About the Author

matt-bell-fb-profile-pictureMatt Bell is the author of four personal finance books that were published by NavPress, serves as Managing Editor at Sound Mind Investing (www.SoundMindInvesting.com), a Christian company that publishes an investment newsletter, blogs at www.MattAboutMoney.com, and speaks at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country. Using a budget helped him recover from his own prodigal son experience.

Image credits: pixabay.com, blog.mint.com

Mint.com- a tool for budgeting, saving, giving & more

During February the COMPASS blog is having “Faithful Fun with Finances.” We’re thinking about credit scores, budgets, planning, and other topics. In this post, new COMPASS team member Jessica Zackavec shares about a resource which she has found useful, Mint.com, as a tool for budgeting for Millennials. We share it here as a look at one potential tool and resource that can be used in the budgeting process.

Budgeting can be difficult, as most Millennials in this fast-paced world recognize. Most of us are always on the go which makes it hard to keep up with a monthly budget, or at least I know it’s hard for me. I’m a newlywed with a husband who has a busy work schedule (he works full-time and is a volunteer firefighter). Our time together is often limited, which makes it quite precious. Finding time to sit down and figure out the budget isn’t something either one of us really wants to spend much of our time on. I found Mint.com a while back, and decided to give this budgeting tool a try. (Mint.com is related to Intuit and Turbotax which most people have heard of, which increased the credibility for a new user like me.)

Budgeting using Mint.com

Budgeting using Mint.com

Set-up

When you start with Mint.com I recommend using Firefox as your browser to ensure a smooth experience. It will ask if you would like to connect your bank, credit card, and loan accounts. You can connect them to your Mint account by following the instructions and using your online bank, credit card, or loan logins and passwords. Some may find this a little scary, but we did our research and felt very at peace about using it.  You need to do whatever you are most comfortable with personally. Once you connect your accounts, Mint will categorize your spending. (Just note that you may need to go back in and re-categorize a few purchases here and there).

Budgeting

The Mint.com App

The Mint.com App

You are able to set up a monthly budget. Once you establish an account, Mint categorizes your spending; it will show you exactly what your spending looks like for the last month. Mint will inform you via email if your spending goes over budget in any category, which is a helpful reminder!  Also, Mint.com has an app which makes it great for me and my husband to see what’s happening with our money even when we are apart.  It’s very convenient to log in to one place or open the Mint.com app to view our finances. Logging in to each account separately was a time consuming chore for us. If you are on the go like we are, you will love what Mint can do for you and your budget!  It’s easy to forget some of those small purchases which add up by the end of the month.  It is quite beneficial to see what your money is actually used for.

Saving

One of the cool options we have both really enjoyed is the goal section. We are able to create our own savings goals such as for a down payment on a house and an emergency fund.  Mint will also give us an estimate of when we will reach our goal. It also has a visual tool to help us track our progress and see where we are in our saving process.

Giving

Mint.com’s help with our budget allows us to set giving goals too. Establishing our giving goal brought back fond memories of Sunday School when we would try to make a giving goal for missions.  We’d have a big thermometer that you got to color in every time you gave a bit more so we could see where we were with our end goal. Mint provides that visual motivation as well!

Ongoing Use

I have really enjoyed my month with Mint, and think my husband and I will continue to use it. It’s very easy to maintain, and by spending just a little bit of time here and there, you can easily keep track of your financial spending, saving, and giving too!

jessica headshotAbout the Author: Jessica Zackavec is a newlywed and the wife of a volunteer firefighter. She has a passion for stewardship, and enjoys budgeting. She also loves crafting and all things Pinterest, if there is an opportunity to make something amazing for cheaper she will find a way! Creativity is a big part of her life at work and home. She is the Church Relations Coordinator at Barnabas Foundation and works in Stewardship Education, as well as Marketing.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credits: Mint Budget and Mint.com App.