monitoring your spending

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Wealth & Personal Finance

mint_logoHi everyone! It’s been a while since my last post. Since 2015 has wrapped up, I wanted to share some ways you can either:

  1. Evaluate your spending in 2015
  2. Monitor your spending in 2016

I am a big user and supporter of Mint.com. They connect all your financial accounts (you need to log in with your credentials) so you can see almost ALL your transactions in one place.

Existing Users:

I suggest you export all your 2015 transactions and evaluate how you were spending to see where you can spend less (or just be shocked at how much you spend in a certain category). Since Mint currently does not offer transaction exports with Top Category (just subcategories), head over to my Mint support response thread here for the default list and how to pivot everything. From this I learned: I spend way too much on “Food & Dining > Restaurants” and “Misc > Family (my custom subcategory)”.

New Users:

Most people are afraid to link up financial accounts for fear of being hacked. I’m not a technology security expert, but in the four years I have been using Mint, there has been zero problems with security. Mint pulls the transaction info from each of your accounts and does not display any login usernames or passwords.

I have connected all my possible financial accounts so I can view everything in one place. I know my “net asset” balance at any given point.


It’s also great to have on your phone so you can check your transactions every once in a while. You can catch any fraudulent charges BEFORE your bill comes or when you decide to check your accounts online.

  • Ex: My parents share all their bank and credit cards, so when one person makes a purchase, the other is not always aware. I find him asking her if she made any purchases as soon as he sees something strange before the monthly bill arrives. Sometimes he sees a weird charge cause the vendor’s name is different from the store’s name and freaks out, which leads me to Google the vendor and realize the charge is correct.

Lacking Features:

  1. Cash balance. Since you start your Mint account at a random point in your life, it does not have an accurate count of your cash. It assumes your cash = checking account, so no wallet, no under the mattress funds, etc. It is up to you if you want to enter a transaction as “Income > Cash” to have balances that are ~100% accurate.
    • You will need to input all your cash transactions manually (app or desktop).
  2. Netting balance. Balances that are positive and negative under the same category do not net unless you mark the expense as “Reimbursable.”
    • Ex: You spent $200 on a dinner bill that includes your friends’ amount. They pay you $150 back through PayPal/Venmo/etc. In Mint, you would need to “Split” the expense as $50 / $150 and mark the $150 as “Reimbursable”
  3. Offline mode. The app works with an internet connection only. So if you were hoping to edit your expenses on your commute or elsewhere, don’t bother (although viewing is fine).
  4. Missing some financial institutions. Not all accounts can be added to Mint, such as: Banana Republic, Target, Robinhood, Acorns, etc. It takes one “Mint Support” thread and +5 “Me Too” clicks to be added on the development consideration list. And even then, it’s up to the financial institutions to make it possible (ex: Robinhood has no web platform, so Mint cannot add them until they make something).

Final Thoughts:

I did not notice #2 above until late 2015. I started recategorizing some expenses from August 2015 and was really good October 2015 and forward. Thus, my totals in Mint for 2015 are not 100% accurate since I find myself in the situation as noted in the example very often.

Do you have personal finance goals for 2016? 😄

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