My Not-So-Secret Budgeting Weapon

I am obsessive about our money and monthly budget. I track every.single.penny that we spend. When my husband uses the credit card to buy a Diet Coke out of the vending machine at work, he can expect a text from me telling him to stop drinking so much Diet Coke. I noticed that $1.50 charge!

To track all of our expenses and accounts, I use Mint. It’s a free, online tool (also has an easy to use mobile app) that allows you to connect all your accounts and make budgets. This is my not-so-secret budgeting weapon! I don’t think I could survive without Mint.

The accounts we have linked to our Mint profile are our savings and checking, both car loans, mortgage, every single credit card, Matt’s 401K, and my Roth and 401K. You can even link your home’s current market value and the KBB value of your car. I can get a complete financial summary and net worth every day with my morning coffee.

Heres what budget categories I use on Mint – but you can tailor them to whatever you like:

  1. Mortgage. This amount pretty much never changes, however we always put extra money towards the principal of our loan.
  2. Utilities and Other Bills. This includes cable, electric, gas, water, cell phones. This one usually doesn’t change either.
  3. Car Payments. Unfortunately, Matt and I both bought brand new cars in 2014 so two car payments is our reality right now. Luckily I got 0% financing through Toyota because of my excellent credit! *cue link to my previous post about how starting credit early is so important!*
  4. Gas & Fuel. We spend around $150-$200 a month on gas. We live about 25 min from work but luckily, we are able to carpool a lot.
  5. Food & Dining. This includes every grocery trip, restaurant or fast food meal, liquor & beer, vending machines, or Starbucks coffee.
  6. Gifts & Donations. Theres usually at least one birthday/shower/party gift every month.
  7. Vacation Fund. I would go hungry and have no cable tv before giving up my monthly vacation fund!
  8. Reimbursable Travel. Matt charges all his travel expenses for work on our credit card so we can get rewards! He gets reimbursed by his company a few weeks later.
  9. Dog Walker. This expense kills me but our 2 fur babies need to get let out mid day.
  10. Miscellaneous. Anything else that doesnt fit into one of these categories.

I set a dollar amount for each budget for the month. Mint tracks my spending and has a progress bar as the month goes on. I love the visualization because it starts changing color as you are approaching your spending limit.

It also tracks your income vs. spending so you know how much you can (or cannot) put in savings each month.

If all of this seems overwhelming, I totally understand. The first step to making a budget it knowing how much you spend. So many people ask “where does all our money go?” and this is because they dont track spending! Start out by estimating what you think your family spends in each category. Track it for 2 months so you can be aware of your spending habits. Once you are aware, you are in a much better position to start making changes and start living the Upscale Cheapskate lifestyle.

Let me know what you use to budget!

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