Friday, November 12, 2010

A Pesky Item Crossed off my To-Do List

Now that Anna is a little older, she is usually pretty content to sleep in her swing or crib during the day for at least a little while so I can get some stuff done around the house. This morning, however, she had kind of a traumatizing time at our first mommy meet-up group attempt (loud, sunny, busy outside table at Starbucks does not equal a cheerful baby), and so I was happy to let Anna sleep on me as long as she wanted to. Well, today I finally found something productive that I can do with Anna sleeping on my chest, and luckily it was something that I've been meaning to do for a while now.

Before I got knocked up and stopped working, we enjoyed a dual income with few major expenses, and we really just spent money as we wanted. We only very loosely followed a budget, and we each had a well-fed "fun money" account that easily covered whatever we wanted for the month. Well, momma ain't working anymore and with the expenses matching up to our income a lot more closely now, we really needed to set a realistic budget and actually follow it. Damn adulthood.

My computer-whiz CPA hubby set up quite the complex Excel sheet with the budget numbers and then columns to log our actual expenses. The theory was that we could transfer all the numbers from the checking accounts and the credit card, and then Excel would add everything up for us. The Excel sheet was well-done, but for a budget that complex, it was really time consuming to have to enter everything manually, and there was no way to view the actual transactions. There was also no way to see how close we were to the budget numbers at any given time without going back through and adding everything up again. And another big problem is that I rarely get that much time to sit down and focus on something like that (these blog posts take me a max of 10 minutes, otherwise you guys would never hear from me, haha). We've been using that for a month or two now and I started thinking that there must be a better way to do this.

Enter It's a totally on-line, FREE budgeting and financial software that anyone can sign up for and access anywhere in the world. I had heard good things about this site before but never used it, and signed in today for the very first time. The neat thing about Mint is that it can pull in all the info from your credit card and your bank accounts (I researched the security of the site before doing so, obviously!!), so you can see every transaction, and it will update automatically as new transactions occur. You can then create a totally custom budget with your own categories, and assign the categories to the various transactions. Mint tracks your spending throughout the month and compares it to your at any given minute, you can log in and see how you're doing.

So today, I spent about an hour creating all the categories for our budget, assigning categories among our various transactions, and fine-tuning everything to get it fully up and running. The standard expenses and deposits were assigned permanent categories so I won't have to always go in and assign those, which will cut down on the amount of time I'll have to spend on categorizing expenses every time I log in. I will be adding a Mint check-in to my weekly to-do list, so that we can have a good handle on how our spending is going for the month. I have a feeling that just a few minutes spent doing this every week will really help keep us on track!


Kathryn said...

I love mint, its great! And you can download your spending into excel too!!

Janine said...

I love Really showed me how much money we were throwing away on fast food. And congrats for getting shit done while holding baby - It ain't easy!