Saturday, February 21, 2009

How do you keep track of your personal finances?

For the last 15 months or so, I've been using the fantastic and FREE service to track our personal finances, budgets, and most recently our 401(k)s, auto loans, mortgages, and even our home's value.

I am a data lover and previously kept a detailed spreadsheet that had 20-30 entries that I had to manually update whenever we got a bank statement, credit card statement, etc.

Here is what does for you: You link your bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, real estate, etc in your account and every night mint downloads the transactions and categorizes them. In the beginning, you need to identify the correct category for each entry, but after that - mint begins to recognize where you spend and automatically assigns the category (and does a great job of it too.) You get access to detailed spending and savings reports, graphs, charts and net worth figures updated to the minute.

One of the ways mint makes money is over in their "Ways To Save" tab. Here, they analyze your account and offer you better programs based on your current situation. For example, right now I have an offer for a zero percent credit card from Discover and a Virgin Atlantic "Black" American Express card with a $200 sign up bonus.

We have been using the great budgeting feature for our grocery bills. Our new years resolution was to reduce extra spending here and since mint downloads all of our transactions (we use debit for almost all purchases), we can see immediately where we are in spending vs budget.

Concerned about privacy? Check out their privacy policy here. It's rock solid.

Give a try, you'll love it.

Five Rules For Life: My Five

A few days ago, I posted Gina Trapani's Five Rules For Life after reading it on her new blog.

Jon Andre's new blog is a huge hit and it's "premise is simple - people from all walks share what they believe are the most important rules to follow for a happy, successful, and fulfilling life. At one time or another we have all said "if I only knew then what I know now..."; now is your chance to share. What are your "Five Rules For Life"?"

After seeing my post, Jon invited me to contribute my Five Rules which are here.

1. Take things lightly.
I try not to get bogged down in how terrible something is or how great something is either. It really helps me to see things much clearer and as a result as I get older, I know this to be a fact and wish someone taught it to me a long time ago.

2. Laugh a lot.
People naturally mirror others who they respect and enjoy being around. I use my sense of humor to get the juices flowing in meetings or just because it feels really great to laugh with someone! Not only does it drop their defenses, it increases happy hormones that they unknowingly associate with YOU.

3. Make a plan.
The greatest things in life are the hardest to get: It is nearly impossible to get something worth having unless you have made a plan to do it. Use measuring techniques along the way, and reward yourself when you are on track or have done it! This can range from losing weight to the mundane of meeting a budget you created.

4. Save for tomorrow.
See rule number 3, this HAS to be included in your life. I learned at a young age that when I got a raise or a bonus to put that away into retirement or long-term savings. It's amazing how this money isn't missed and how fast it grows (then it becomes addicting).

5. Learn from others mistakes/triumphs.
I have a large family and learned this little tidbit early on by watching my brothers and sisters. It carried on into friendship, love and business. Whenever something goes wrong or wright: Stop and ask yourself - What could I do in the future to insure that this never happens to me or always happens to me.

If you would like to contribute, you can email Jon at fiverulesforlife [at] gmail [dot] com