Our first items are up on Etsy! Our combined blog appears to be working nicely so far, and I’ve been working on reigning in our budget.
I found an excellent tool for budgeting and setting/meeting financial goals. It’s run by Intuit, the same people responsible for TurboTax, and it’s called Mint. I’ve spent some time over the last few days adding our accounts and loans and such. Today I added two financial goals – paying off the two credit cards (possible by September) and paying off two of our smaller loans (Possible by 2015).
To summarize, this is what it did for us when I first signed up. It asked for some basic information, as all sites do. Then I added our bank accounts, credit cards, and loans all automatically via online banking. Now, that might seem scary, but Mint is a purely read-only system. It makes no attempt to do anything other than look at what you’ve done – in fact with alert systems in place it adds security by allowing SMS messages to be sent when it senses strange things are going on in your accounts.
So now it knows how much money we have in our accounts, how much we owe on loans, most of the loans also show the interest rates, all of our transactions for the last 90 days, and it automatically assigns categories to transactions based on who they were to. I’ve had to manually change some, because not all of our spending at Sheetz is on gas, for example. It also recognizes our income, and assigns budgets to the various spending categories based on that. So we have a budget for gas, a budget for movies and entertainment, for fast food, for restaurants and dining, for saving, etc etc. It gives warnings on things, like the fact that we are currently using 131% of our combined credit card limits. It gives suggestions on alternative products (credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts) that would save more money or pay more. For a long time I’ve been wanting to keep track of all our transactions and see where our money is going, but I’ve been far too lazy and it requires more organization to make sure we’re in check with what the bank says. Mint does it automatically!
Granted, I’ve been using it for 3 days so my experience isn’t huge, and it does have it’s downsides – e.g. it won’t read our Sallie Mae account (for some unknown reason – I’ve put in a request for them to find out), and because I don’t have online access to either of our auto loans I can’t enter them either. It also poses a security risk by giving your online banking information to one entity, however secure and reputable they may be.