When considering giving up half your household’s annual income in order to be a stay at home mom, one of the first questions you ask yourself is, “Can we really do it?”
“Can we REALLY survive on only one salary?”
We thought we could. We had made budgets before and at least on paper it seemed like we could do it, but we had actually never monitored the budgets the way we needed to in order to really know if we were capable of doing in practice what we put on paper.
If you have ever wondered the same thing or just struggled to monitor and maintain your budget, check out my Mint app review below.
If you aren’t familiar with Mint, check out their website here. In short, Mint is a free app/website that integrates with your bank accounts and credit cards to help you setup and monitor digital budgets. It has a lot of other features like tracking your credit score too.
My husband and I have been using Mint for about a year and I’m happy to report, it is TOTALLY worth it. Here’s why:
Automatic Transaction Entry: We linked our primary accounts to Mint, and except for the rare occasions where we use cash for something, all our transactions are automatically picked up and categorized into Mint’s predetermined budgets. Cash transactions must be manually added but the process is very quick and easy.
Customized Budgets: The trick to Mint and its usefulness, at least for us, has been setting up our own budgets in-line with how we like to categorize and analyze our monthly spending habits. For instance, Mint has 24 standard categories (budgets), each with numerous sub categories.
While some of their categories worked for us, there were entirely too many for me to keep track of and then some important groups were missing. As an example, Mint comes with five subcategories to the Food & Dining budget: alcohol & bars, coffee shops, fast food, groceries, and restaurants. For us though, we only track three things: groceries, Matt’s eating out expenses, and my eating out expenses. So one of the five preloaded categories worked for us but we were missing the other two.
This is where Mint really excels. It is very easy to set up your own categories and budgets that are applicable with how your family budgets. Food is just one example of where we did this.
Mint does take a little bit of setup to link your accounts and determine which budgets you intend to use. But after you are all setup it’s very easy to maintain.
Easy Categorization: I log onto mint about once a week to categorize our transactions into the correct budgets. Mint automatically categorizes everything but is only right about half the time. Mint does “learn” though. For instance, after I assign a transaction from say Starbucks to my own eating out budget, Mint will begin to automatically assign it there every time. My husband also has the app on his phone and logs on to update his own purchases.
Safety & Security: Mint uses “the same 128-bit SSL encryption and physical security standards as your bank” and is “also verified and monitored by third party experts such as TRUSTe, VeriSign and other stalwarts of online security” according to their website.
Honestly, I don’t know much about encryption and online security so I can’t tell you much more than that. What I can say though is that Mint keeps me much more in touch with the transactions happening across all of my accounts and increases the likelihood of me spotting fraudulent charges tenfold. So where trusting a company with sensitive financial information seems somewhat risky, we think the tradeoff is our increased ability to self-monitor our accounts for fraud.
Extra Features: As mentioned earlier, Mint also comes packed with extra features. Though these are less important to us, these features are still great advantages. Additional features include:
- Free Credit Score
- Bill Reminders
- High Spending Alerts
- Goal Setting and Tracking
- Investment Tracking
Overall, it’s convenient, easy, and keeps us accountable. It’s a lot like a digital envelope system.
After a year with Mint we feel confident that we can in fact survive on one salary.
This is one of the best free apps I have ever used and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to live by a budget!