Do you have a budget established? If not, you absolutely need to get one started right now! It’s imperative that you know where every cent of your income is going. Without this information, you cannot clearly understand what you need to do with your finances or where you are going wrong every month. I highly recommend using Mint.com. It’s really easy to set up and better yet, it’s free!
With Mint.com you link all of your bank accounts (secured, read-only) to the program, so it can track money-in/money-out transactions. You can also link any credit card accounts or loans, so you can track everything in one convenient site. Once you set your own budgets, you can easily track your spending by categorizing each and every transaction. At any given time, you can see exactly what you have spend for each budget category. If you go over budget for a given category you can easily see it, then it helps you to understand how to plan your finances accordingly. Once you go through and categorize every transaction, you will be able to see trends in your spending.
Mint.com gives you some really cool tools to evaluate trends in spending, month over month or year over year. It also gives you suggestions on how to save money every month by applying for a lower interest credit card, for example. It actually gives you links to apply for the best cards available (not that I’m preaching the idea of getting credit cards, but it’s just one more nice feature). I even use Mint.com to link up to my asset accounts like Ameritrade, so I can monitor those as well. Give it a try, it’s really easy to use.
Remember, without a budget there is really no accurate way for you to monitor your spending. If you don’t know where your money is going, how in the world are you ever going to be able to plan to get ahead of the game! Obviously there are many different types of programs available for this purpose. Even a pad and pencil could do the job. But to be able to link everything you have (income, debt, assets, etc.) all in one place, you can’t go wrong with this program. I like to keep it simple…..and free!