How Do You Manage Your Finances?

Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for another Monday Money! I’ve gotta tell you, I was having a bit of a hard time coming up with a topic for today. I’ve written about so many different areas of finance in this column and, I wanted to start a big discussion. How was I going to do that? Well, I had no idea until about a minute and a half ago. Then, I thought, I just recently did a review of Mint for Jeremy. On the other hand, I just talked about how to build a budget spreadsheet on my personal blog.

Both of those conversations were pretty much about tracking and managing your finances. On one hand, a piece of online software does it for you and, on the other hand, you build a spreadsheet and track it on your own. So, I figured I’d talk about the two for a bit and leave the rest up to you, my readers.

All of that being said, I’m going to start out talking about budget spreadsheets. I want to start with this because it’s what I personally use! When creating a budget spreadsheet, you have the ability to really customize it to fit your needs. For instance, I had a comment on my post at CNA by Brice from Save and Conquer that went into great detail about how he created and maintains his budget spreadsheet. I’d usually add the comment to the post, but it’s very long and I don’t want to put too much duplicate content on Jeremy’s blog.

Anyway, Brice went into detail about adding gross income, taxes and several other factors to his spreadsheet. In doing so, he was able to calculate how much his expenses would move should he need to buckle down after losing his job. It also helped him to get a good idea of how much money he needed in savings should something like that happen.

This brings up a strong argument for spreadsheets. The truth is, there are several budgeting programs, websites, ect… however, these programs and sites are very restricted. They don’t generally allow for custom data so, my buddy Brice may have a hard time getting what he needs out of it.

Now, let’s talk a bit about Mint is a very neat program that I’d never heard of until I did the review for Jeremy. I was shocked when I found out that it connects to all of your financial accounts and allows you to manage them in one place. I mean, I could check my bank, my investments, my savings, my debts, my bills and more by logging into one website. That’s definitely something that a budget spreadsheet simply can’t do for me.

Another thing about Mint that really caught my attention is the fact that Mint tracks your spending habits to give you a good idea of where you can save and what areas of spending are going smoothly. Although, this could be tracked using a spreadsheet, it would be a pain to say the least. I mean, you would have to create categories that all purchases would fit under and, make sure to update your budget with each purchase you made. That’s really a lot of work.

But then again, Mint isn’t 100% customizable. Not to mention, I’ve also heard a few reports of Mint categorizing purchases under the wrong category.

So there you have it, Mint and Budget Spreadsheets both have strengths and weaknesses. Which do you use to manage your finances and why? Please let me know in a comment below!

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