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.

Frugal Tips for Recent Graduates

During the month of May COMPASS  has been giving space for conversations and questions about “What’s Next?” Specifically we are thinking about budgeting and student loans during and after graduation and the life transitions that commonly begin during this month. Today we welcome back Grace Duddy Pomroy to the blog. This post previously appeared on Grace’s blog, and is adapted and used here with her permission.

graduationIt’s the time of year when graduation pictures fill Facebook and Instagram: a time of bittersweet endings and fresh beginnings for many people. Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates. I called this post “tips for recent grads” because we are just coming to the end of the graduation time of year, but really this is advice for anyone.

After you have just graduated you experience a significant life transition, making it an easier time to shift your money priorities, but you could certainly make this shift at any time. For young professionals, I am convinced that two of the best things that you can do with your money is to use it to invest in yourself and those you care about through repaying loans and saving.

If you are a recent grad, with student debt it can be tempting to wait until the end of your grace period to start paying your off your student loan. I would encourage you not to wait. When you get a full-time job and begin creating your budget, put your student loans in your budget right away. There are many online calculators that can help you figure out your monthly payment amounts for your loans. If you can’t afford making the payments right away, consider just paying the interest on the loans during your grace period. Any little bit will help in the long run.

After you move out of your grace period, get on a payment plan that works for you. If you can afford to pay at least the minimum on all of your loans, do it. Check into consolidation and income-based repayment plans if you qualify. Then make a plan to get out of debt.

Snowball

Snowball

I have a plan to pay off my student loans in 5 years (half of the recommended time). I am using the snowball method to get out of debt faster. I began by paying off my two smaller loans ($2,000 or less). I paid off the first one within a little over a year of graduation and then put the minimum payment from that loan towards the next smallest loan. Within about six months, I paid off the next smallest loan. Now, I am putting the money I had been putting towards that second smallest loan towards my next smallest loan which also happens to be the one with the most interest. I hope to pay off this loan with in the next year or two. Coming out of grad school, I felt overwhelmed by my debt and needed some quick wins so I started with my smallest loans. However, the smarter choice would have been to get rid of the highest interest loan first.

During a research project, I spoke with a man in his thirties who told me that he and his wife had decided not to focus too much on paying off their debt but instead to take this time to enjoy other opportunities, particularly travel. There is certainly a balance between enjoying your 20s and 30s vs.  paying off your loans quickly. You have to find the balance that is the best fit for you, your values, and priorities.

Once you have a plan for your debt in line, you can begin thinking about savings. Regardless of your debt level, you should always leave space in your budget to build up your emergency fund and long-term savings, even if it is just $20 a month. Beyond that you can begin to think about short-, mid- and long-range savings goals. Short-term goals (two years or less) might be saving for a vacation, computer, car, or even a wedding. Mid-range goals (five to even twenty years out) might include saving for house, dream vacation, a child’s education, etc. A long-range goal is generally retirement or another 20+ year goal. At this point in my life I am focused on short and long range goals, saving for my emergency fund, retirement as well as doing some fun short-term savings. There is almost nothing more financially rewarding than continually investing in a savings fund and achieving your goal.

When you are focusing on paying off debt, especially a large amount of debt, it can be tempting not to save. In most cases, this would be a mistake that could really cost you. It is important to have some emergency savings (3-6 months of income saved) or at least a modest rainy day fund ($1000+) before charging full speed ahead on your debt. While this may seem like a road block in the way of paying your debt, if you don’t have an emergency or rainy day fund any unexpected expense like an unanticipated car repair, medical expense, or travel expense can really throw off your budget and your debt repayment plan by adding more debt. Saving and paying off debt is a delicate balance but it is doable and worthwhile.

Join the Conversation: What is your plan for repaying and saving?

Grace headshotAbout the Author: Grace Duddy Pomroy is a Financial Education Specialist at Portico Benefit Services and previously served as Executive Director of Operations at Kairos and Associates, and Assistant Director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders and Luther Seminary. She is author of “Stewards of God’s Love”, recently published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She blogs regularly and you can follow her on Twitter.

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: Sea of Graduation of Caps and Snowball.