This is a guest post from Tim, who created The Mint Manual.
Whether it’s getting a better job, paying off credit card debt, or saving more, most New Year’s resolutions involve money (hey, it’s the second most common resolution). Another thing about most resolutions is that they fail. Horribly and quickly.
Sometimes it’s because the goal in question is too lofty. Other times it’s because someone sets a goal, but then doesn’t set himself up to succeed.
Especially with large and difficult goals, we need to maximize our chances at success. I’m all for setting ambitious goals, but there’s no reason to make things harder than they already are.
If you’ve got financial goals for 2013, Mint.com can definitely help make them a reality. See PT’s full review of Mint.com. Here are a few of the most common financial goals for 2013 and smart ways to use Mint to reach them.
Pay Off Credit Card Debt
Along with awesome initiatives like The Debt Movement, Mint is a great sparkplug to paying off debt. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using Mint to ditch your credit card debt.
- Get a complete look at your total credit card debt. To do this, login to Mint and click on the Trends option at the top of the Overview screen on the Website. Then on the left-side menu, click on Debts, then By Account to see all of your credit card accounts. You can also tap the Accounts section on any of the mobile apps and scroll down to Credit Cards.
- Like any to-do list, looking at all of your debt at once can be overwhelming, so just decide what’s the most manageable and take it one step at a time. See what accounts have the highest interest rate or the smallest balance. Then start chopping away one at a time. With each account you cross off as “paid,” your to-do list becomes a lot less scary.
Get a Better Handle on Your Finances
As with any goal, the easier you make things on yourself, the higher your chances of success. For example, you’re much more likely to eat right if you bring a healthy lunch everyday, rather deciding what’s least-bad-for-you at restaurants. Make good choices the easy choices!
Your finances are the same – the easier you make managing your money, the more likely you are to do it.
A great way to simplify money management is with Mint’s auto-categorize function. Mint does a pretty good job guessing how your transactions should be categorized, but occasionally you have to go in and make some changes.
Let’s say you are changing the category of a transaction that frequently appears, like buying gas. In Transactions (on the Mint Website only), click “Edit Details” right below the Description field, and in the window that opens, change to the proper category.
Then check the box next to Rules that says “Always rename ‘Shell Gas Station’ (or whatever) and categorize as ‘Gas & Fuel.’”
Now Mint knows how to categorize all Shell Gas Station transactions and will do so automatically from now on. Believe me, this is a huge time-saver.
The reason traveling is so difficult for most people is that many decide to travel, then see how much money they’ll have to save, realize how long that will take, and then give up.
A better way is to save the money first! Then, when you decide to travel, the money is already there and you can just start planning.
Set a Travel savings goal and track it on Mint. First, log on to the Website (sorry – you can’t set goals on any of the mobile apps) and click on “Goals.” On the next page, click the “+ Add a goal” button and then click the piggy bank that says “Create a Custom Goal.”
Name your goal “Travel”, choose the “Other” category and set the total amount you want to save. The amount you save can also act as a travel budget! Click “Next” and Mint will walk you through the process of linking your goal with an existing savings account or setting up a new one. Select your end-date (when you want to travel) and hit “Save.”
Note: When you link a bank account with your Travel goal, Mint automatically updates your goal as money gets deposited into that account. There’s no way to do this manually, so make sure you are saving where you told Mint you’d be putting the money.
Finally, have the savings account you linked to your Travel goal automatically pull $50 each month (or whatever amount you choose) from your checking account, and that’s it.
Next time you’re considering a trip, it’ll just be a matter of picking which resort or cruise looks best!
The not-so-subtle theme to all of the advice above is that, if you want to achieve big things in 2013 – like getting out of debt, managing your money better, and traveling more – you need to make things as easy on yourself as possible.
Mint is a great (and free!) tool to help you to simplify your life and realize your goals.
Good luck and happy 2013!
If you’re interested in more ways to become a Mint pro, check out Tim’s guide, The Mint Manual: A guide to mastering and saving money with Mint.com.