Ah, money talk. This is probably one of my least favorite topics for a number of reasons. I don’t like to monitor my spending, yet I complain all the time that I’m a broke college student! I’m sure I’m not the only one on that struggle bus. When you add in the factors of sorority dues, credit card bills, student loans, car insurances, and so on, it can be pretty overwhelming. I know a lot of my stress and anxiety came from my financial burdens, and I knew I had to do something when I noticed that it was taking over my life! As one of my New Years resolutions, I made it my goal to make budgeting a habit. Getting out of debt isn’t easy, but it all starts with budgeting.
So, how does one budget and improve their financial stability? There are a few ways to do this, and one website in particular that is helping me out along the way.
1. Write it all down
The best way to see what you’re spending money on is to document it. Collect all receipts or write down all of your transactions. Then, separate your spending into different categories such as food, shopping, bills, groceries, toiletries, and so on. I think it is always helpful to do this the first month that you decide to start budgeting that way you can see the nature of your spending. I tried the handwritten way and that got a bit unorganized. If you use plastic all the time, like me, you’ll want to track all of your spending, Mint will be your best friend.
Here, you can look at your spending in pie charts. Since I am a visual learner, this is the easiest way I can understand my spending. As you can see, I eat out way more than I should, and I should probably cut back on shopping.
2. Create a budget
Now that you know what you’re spending those hard-earned dollar bills on, you can determine the best way to allocate your money so you don’t go overboard on spending money on unnecessary things (like fast food and clothes!). Budgets basically mean you’re grounded from spending so much money on things you shouldn’t, but at the same time, they promote self-discipline.
The way that Mint determines budgeting is with some mathematic algorithm. It calculates your income (how much you make in a month), minus the total amount of money you spent, minus any money you’ve set aside for your goals such as saving for a trip or for retirement, which then equals the amount of money you have left over. Pretty simple, right? The great thing about Mint is that you can adjust the maximum dollars for each category. Overall, it shows you how much of your limit you’ve spent, and you can further adjust your spending for the rest of the month.
3. Spend less than you make
I know this is an obvious tip, but it is harder than it looks! This is the part where you priorities your wants versus your needs. For example, instead of buying that super cute shirt you saw at the mall, you can put that money towards paying for gas, or basic toiletries. You could even put that money into your savings account (you should have a savings account!) so that you can treat yo’ self later!
4. Set goals
Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring and stress-inducing! When you see how much money you have after paying off bills and whatnot, you see how much money you have left over. With Mint, you can set goals with the money in your accounts, which could motivate a chronic-spender to spend less and save more! There are many different types of goals you can set: Pay off Loans, Buy a Car, Save for College, etcetera. If none of these comply to what you’re looking for, you can create your own goal. Another one of the many reasons why I love this site!
If Mint doesn’t help you reach your financial goals, I don’t know what will. Leave comments below of your thoughts and how you budget your life!