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A minty-fresh budget

Like many young(ish) professionals, I moved to Nashville recently and discovered that rent prices are INSANE. Thankfully, Deborah came to my rescue- she found a house that fit my ‘wish’ list, and my budget. SCREEEEEECH! Budget? Budget! I was so excited my mortgage payment was ½ of what I was paying in rent, that I forgot about the B-word.

Confession: I love to shop. Impulse buying and deal hunting were more fun than designing my financial future. An adorable wardrobe came first, and eventually I paid bills. However, I soon found out my “high priority shopping” budget isn’t chic or practical in the real world of homeownership.

I put on my (stylish) big girl panties, called a financially fashionable friend, and asked for help. She led me through a rigorous evaluation of my spending habits, then helped me designate funds into categories. This exercise was more intense than Black Friday shopping, and it was a real wake-up call. Similar to coordinating an outfit, a good budget has some key pieces- income, bills, savings, and accessories (fun stuff). I would stare at the spreadsheet on my computer, but I wasn’t sure how to connect the spreadsheet with my actual spending. Basically, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Meet Mint, a super easy app (and website), for budgeting. Mint combines your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments into one place for easy management. It automatically creates a budget based on your recent financial activity. You can add, remove, and change the categories. With a simple swipe, you can adjust the allocated funds. Mint also designates your transactions into the budget categories (regardless of account or credit card). You can view all of your financial activity, change transaction designations, and create rules for certain purchases. Mint tracks your spending, and will notify you (email/text) if you are over budget in a category. Yikes! One of my favorite features is the colorful bar graph that changes from green to yellow to red as your spending increases. It’s a quick visual image of your financial fashion.

Without realizing it, I was learning to budget. Although it’s only been a few weeks, Mint is turning this shopper into a saver, and my finances are improving. I check the Mint app daily to see how stylish my finances look, and my goal has shifted from buying shoes to saving up for my next house.

Mint is available in your app store (mint) or on the web at www.mint.com.



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