Savings Step 1: Know What You Spend [Mint.com Review]

As someone who saves a large percentage of her monthly paycheck [even though it isn't a huge one] I often get asked by friends how I do it. How do I know what’s the right amount to save? How do I cut down on my expenses? When do I know I’ve saved enough and I can splurge?

Everyone’s saving plans are different, and there isn’t one right way to do it. All that matters, of course, is that you’re saving enough for several possible scenarios: losing your job, an unplanned event like a stolen phone or laptop, retirement, buying a house, etc.

How_it_works___Mint_com

I always say that the first step in figuring out what savings plan is right for you is to understand where your money is going now. I’m always shocked to hear my friends say they have no idea how much money they spend each month on groceries, going out, clothing, or even utilities. Knowing what you spend on rent each month is not enough to form a smart budget & savings plan!

Enter Mint.comI looooooove Mint, and have been a member for years. How it works is simple – you sign up, link your credit, debit and bank accounts [as well as any retirement, investment and other assets you may have] and then keep track of each and every item you spend. The only thing you need to do is login every so often and check the transactions, to be sure they aren’t categorized incorrectly. Then, at the end of each money you can see a great breakdown of where your money went…all in a fancy-pants pie chart.

my beautiful January

my beautiful January

Yes, it can be scary to see you just spend $1,100 last month on Food & Dining. But guess what? That’s the information you need in order to make the right decisions going forward. Once you get a better understanding of your spending habit – and I say it takes about 3 months on Mint to learn what those are – you’ll be able to see clearly where you can cut back. Trust me.

the black line is how much I've save each month

the black line is how much I’ve saved each month

I understand that some people may be wary to hand over their login info for their bank accounts and credit cards, but Mint uses the same security precautions as the banks themselves so there isn’t a real need to worry. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, then by all means don’t use the [free!] service. But I do suggest taking all credit card and bank statements for a few months and manually separating out your spending on Excel to see [essentially] the same report.

If you aren’t sure, check out their site and see what you think. It can be a little addictive to see where your money’s going…or maybe that’s just me?

Cash Back Websites – Revisited

Trying out this blogging thing again. Still need to fix the sidebars and top logo, among other things, but why wait any longer?

I figured I’d start off this (essentially) brand new blog with a recap of my favorite online, cash back websites. One sentence on how they work: before you purchase something from any online retailer, you head to any of these sites and click through on your way to the place you’re buying from, in order to earn cash back on your purchase. The websites below are essentially splitting their affiliate commissions with you – if Gap pays 6% to them, maybe they’ll offer you 3% and keep the remaining 3% for themselves. Easy as pie.

Even though some purchases will only earn you 10 or 20 cents, it’s about getting used to the act of heading to these sites first that is important. If you’re buying appliances at Home Depot, you could save tens or hundreds of dollars by using a cash back portal. And guess what? You’re still earning your credit card’s points or benefits on top of the portal’s. Trust me, it adds up.

Below you can see how much I’ve earned:

Coupons__Promo_Codes_and_Cash_Back_Savings_-_Ebates_com My_Cash_Back_jpg Top_Cashback_-_Account_Overview

Over $1,000 in only a couple of years! Don’t even ask how much I’ve spent :)

My top three cash back sites (and there are many) are:

I recommend signing up for all three. Then, when you’re about to do some online shopping (or maybe just browse, you never know!), head to CashBackHolic and type in you store. It will tell you which offers the best cash back for any given merchant. You may be tempted to join other sites from here, which is fine, though I think 3-4 is really as much as can be handled by one person. But totally up to you.

So head on over to the sites above, get shopping and let me know how much you’ve saved!

I’m back?

to make a long story short, godaddy deleted my blog (feel free to ask if you care for the long version). but I really do miss it, and I’d like to start over again, so here’s me saying that. perhaps I’ll hold myself accountable, perhaps not.

either way, HELLO WORLD (again)