April 2010 Spending Snapshot

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I’ve been trying to track our expenses better using Mint.com, which means combing through transactions and manually correcting many of the automatic categorizations. I think it’s working, at least in that I hate doing it so much that didn’t make a purchase today so I wouldn’t have to categorize it later. 🙂

I found the home page chart greeting me today amusing:

We did pretty good this month, but it would seem like all we do is eat and drive (and in the case of fast food, probably both at the same time). I notice that housing and utilities aren’t included, but I’m not going to tweak the targets until I have a couple months of spending data first.

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  1. I’ve found Mint’s weekly summary emails to be quite useful at seeing where we could cut back. It does a pretty good job of labeling expenses, but some stores like Wal-mart or Target fall under different categories. I have to double check to make sure we’re not going over some categories.

  2. Do home brewing supplies fall under groceries or alcohol? After all, in the raw state, not yet alcohol. : )

  3. Having come from Microsoft Money I’ve found Mint’s budgetting tools to be quite lacking. I used to have my own budget set up similar to yours but found it to be too cumbersome overall. I really dislike the fact that you can’t go back and adjust budgets from previous months.

    Now I just have 3 categories; home (rent), bills and other. I set my cap each month for the other and have the balance carry over to the next month. This way if I want to start spending all of my money on restaurants versus clothing it all falls in the same bin. You can always use the reporting to track your usage of these items but I think budgetting for them does not work very well on Mint.

  4. where are your mortgage payments and utilities being grouped then? Mint captures these assuming all your bank accounts are linked, so I’m confused how they would be left out (if they are uncategorized, Mint will have a huge uncategorized balance on the end of that chart).

  5. Do you track your ‘flexible’ purchases thru Mint and exclude some of your fixed payments (ie mortgage, car, utilities…)? I know as a 25yr old my graph will look different just because of lifestyle, in addition to personal taste on categorization. Just curious as to how you utilize the tracking feature…

  6. Jonathan, a few years ago, you wrote a piece that sold me on Yodlee, and I’ve been happy with it ever since. I’m curious whether you now prefer Mint to Yodlee for tracking spending, net worth, etc. Does Mint have any clear advantage over Yodlee?

  7. @Elle – You can now split transactions with Mint, although it can be tedious.

    @Ron – My vote is groceries. 🙂

    @BIGSeth, Mike, MT – As BIGSeth indicates, you can choose whatever you want to track, and they’ll track it based on the categorizations of your transactions. You could only track “gum” if you wanted to.

    @Dan – I still use Yodlee to track my net worth, and it still holds all the logins to my many accounts. For Mint, I am just letting them track the 1 checking account + 2-3 credit cards I primarily spend things from. I find their budgeting graphs, interface, a bit better than Yodlee.

    Now that Intuit owns Mint and that Yodlee isn’t the engine behind Mint anymore, I am also trying to notice if their bank syncing is less buggy.

  8. I have to check out mint.com. i like to monitor my spendings as well, but i do it manually on excel. I have categories for credit cards, utility bills, mortgage, cash spending allowance, phone bills, etc. etc. Then i have another line for my monthly net revenue and the difference between the two is how much i can expect to save every month. This allows me to see exactly where i’m spending most of my money and where i can cut back and improve on.

  9. I see you spend a reasonable and actual realistic amount on groceries. Good for you. Those mommy/I use coupons/only $10 a week on grocery bloggers annoy me. Not that there is anything wrong with coupons.

    My husband’s homebrew supplies have their own budget – $40 amonth.

  10. @Me – what wrong with coupons? sorry, i don’t understand 🙁

  11. @ X-One: I think the poster was not directing the post as coupons, but rather at the online bloggers who brag about having fed their family of four on $10 for the entire weekly grocery bill because of coupons. That is wonderful if someone can pull it off even once, but far, far, far from realistic. Jonathan posted a realistic amount for a monthly grocery bill.

  12. I’ve been using Mint since Nov 2008. I really like it, except for when I look back to see exactly how much money I’ve spent on my mortgage over the last few years….

    It’s kind of a hassle to split up transactions, especially if you shop regularly at places like Walmart Supercenter for both groceries and non-groceries. But a simple way to fix that is to quit going to Walmart 🙂

    Overall, I’ve recommended Mint to many coworkers and friends, and barring any huge changes, will continue to do so. It’s especially useful for making sure my credit cards (which I never use and so whose individual sites I never log into) aren’t gathering balances unbeknownst to me.

  13. How safe is mint.com? I was looking into using it but was hesitant to give them all that personal financial information. I’ve heard pro’s and con’s but it would be nice to have a budgeting program to help.

  14. @ Katie – I cannot speak to the security, but I do use it. Perhaps someone else can chime in on that. I can say that if your accounts ask for further security questions (type in this word sort of questions), you need to do that as well through Mint each time as you normally would if logging in to your bank account or brokerage account online.

    My hang up with Mint is they seem to be going through some serious issues synching with brokerage accounts this past month. I have not been able to get complete information for my TIAA-CREF account (my 403b) for the past week, after three weeks of getting nothing at all (worked fine for months) and now both my Vanguard and Schwab accounts have inconsistent access for the past two weeks. I have an ongoing trouble ticket in for the TIAA-CREF issue – the staff is nice and seem sincere in the correspondence, elevating it up the ladder for tech support.

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