The Best Guide to Using Mint to Manage Your Personal Budgets

When it comes to your personal budget, the best way to be successful is to make data entry and keeping track of your every purchase as simple and easy as possible. The days of excel spreadsheets and entering every card transaction by hand are done, welcome to the world of Mint.com.

This program offers the most simple and efficient method for the individual or small business owner who is serious about budgeting and wants to track their spending in an effort to save. In a few easy steps, using Mint, you will be able to view all your income and purchases instantly, linking all accounts, for an accurate and up to date view of your current financial situation.

Having your information all in one place helps you to better be able to strategize your spending and saving. Nothing has made this easier than Mint.com; here is how to use it.

Set Up

During this first stage of setting up your Mint.com Profile, you will be given information from all of your personal finance accounts linked to your Mint account. The information from each one of these will go back up to a year and will be used to help to track your spending and will be what you use to create your budget.

During this initial set up, you will need to take the time to categorize your spending and label it accordingly. Mint will automatically assign purchases to different categories based on the type of business conducted, you then have the option to go in and sub-categorize and get more specific with the details attached to each account. The more specific you get, the better you will be able to see where exactly you are spending the largest chunks of money, where you can cut down and which items can be used as deductions from your taxes. It is all there, present in the details.

Creating Budgets              

Mint will automatically generate a few default budgets for you based on the categories you have selected and your spending history. Once you take a look at these, you can decide if you would like to change them in any way to include more subcategories, or exclude ones as well. You can customize these budgets any way you want simply by using the edit details feature. You can also create new budgets as well, as many as you like to track all areas of your spending.

Once you have your budgets created, you should be able to step back and let Mint.com do the rest for you. Every purchase you make using your cards or PayPal, excluding cash of course, will be automatically updated in the system and tracked in your budget to keep all information current. As you progress monthly, so will your trackers, changing from green to red as you get close to your allotted amounts, or overspend. At the end of the month, you will be given the option to roll over any unspent amounts to the next month. Again, you have the ability to customize your account any way you like.

Alerts

Once you have all of your initial set up completed and all your desired accounts have been linked in, and your budget is set, you can have the software email you an alert for a number of different reasons. You may want to be notified if you go over budget, or you spend more than is usual for you in a certain category. You can customize this however you like as well to receive as many or as few notifications about your account. This can be particularly helpful in a society that for the most part, does not write each purchase in a balance anymore. You can be aware if your accounts are too low and avoid unnecessary fees associated with overspending.

Stay Connected

If you have an iPhone, you can download the Mint.com app for free and manage your accounts in the palm of your hand, anywhere on the go. The app has most of the features that you find online and you can add or subtract accounts and edit information from just about anywhere. The app also has special tips for it’s users, based on your spending, you may receive suggestions on how to save money in different areas, tips on consolidating debt and reducing your overall spending in general areas.

The app also allows you to view new alerts and information as it is updated to your account and offers to send you push notifications in many different instances, again, these options are also up for customization.

Jennifer Ricci works with students and their student loan questions for Cedar Education Lending. When not talking with a student she finds time to write personal finance articles for some of her favorite blogs.


What is DTI (Front and Back End Ratios for Mortgage)?

When you are in the middle of the mortgage application process you may hear the terms DTI or ‘front end ratio’ and ‘back end ratio’ being thrown around.

Your income plus monthly debt burden will help determine how much house you can afford.  The front end ratio and the back end ratio are the calculations that make this determination.

The Front End Ratio:

Front Ratio is determined by adding together your proposed principle and interest mortgage payment, taxes, insurance and any dues owed to a homeowners association or condominium complex.  This total is divided by your total gross income.

Example:

  • Principle and interest mortgage payment = $1,000
  • Taxes and insurance = $150
  • Homeowners Dues = $50
  • Total Payment = $1,200

With an income of $4,000 a month your front end ratio would be 30%.  Typically mortgage companies want to see a front ratio of under 28%.

[Related: What is YSP (Yield Spread Premium)?]

Back End Ratio:

This ratio is called your DTI (Debt to Income).

The back ratio is determined by adding together the total mortgage payment (including everything listed above) plus any other monthly financial obligation.  The monthly obligations can be credit card payments, auto loans, lines of credit, etc.  This total is then divided by your gross monthly income.  If you have no monthly payments besides your mortgage your front and back end ratios will be the same.

Example:

  • Total from above = $1,200
  • Car Payment = $200
  • Credit Card Payments = $80

Again with a $4,000 a month income your back end ratio would be 37%.  Mortgage companies want to see this below 36%.

Even though lenders like to see your DTI below 36% some lenders will give exceptions all the way up to 50% depending on the strength of your credit score and other factors in your loan.

Keeping a low Debt to Income ratio is important and can help you qualify for a mortgage with less hassle.

To keep your mortgage payments low, make sure your credit score is high. If your score is currently too low, speak with a specialist to get credit repair secrets to get your number back to respectable, and your mortgage payment will fall.

Check out todays mortgage rates.


Weekend Jobs – Make a few extra bucks this weekend.

Weekend JobsIn light of a poor economy and it being Friday, I thought I’d write an article for the personal finance section concerning some weekend jobs you could do to earn some extra cash.

Now weekend jobs are not exactly glamorous but if you are in need of some extra money these may be worth trying out.  In this poor economy a lot of people are looking for ways to make a few extra dollars here and there.  If you know where to look there are some pretty simple ways to work weekends.

We’ll call it the Weekend Warrior List:

  • Customer Service Based Jobs from Home: There are many companies that are looking for people to handle their customer service on the weekends.  Many companies have customer service “centers” (could be your home) that is open weekends and 24 hours a day.  They need help from people like you to handle the customer service needs.  A simple Google search for Home Based Customer Service Jobs will give you the options.  We do not endorse any company that offers this service.
  • Computer, Coding, Writing or Similar Skills: If you have skills in any of these areas there are some great options where you can sign up on certain websites and people can hire you to handle their online jobs.  If you are a good writer you could write articles for $10 a pop, Blog posts, website copy and more.  If you are technical, know coding or similar people can hire you for their web needs.  Even if you are just good at administration jobs people can hire you for that, hey you could do complete busy work for someone if you wanted too.  Two of these websites are oDesk.com and Elance.com. Check them out and see if you can get some weekend jobs lined up.  If you use these services there are ways you can actively seek out jobs and apply.
  • Odd Jobs Around Your Area: Perhaps you have some painting background, construction or even landscaping.  Posting up your skills on free classified websites like Craigslist.org may land you a couple of weekend jobs.  This is typically outdoor labor and is not for everyone, but if you are in need of some extra money it could help.  Just to give you a heads up Craigslist is very heavily used.  There are other local free classified websites you could try that may be a little more targeted for your area.  Google it.

If you have any other ideas for our readers of some Weekend Warrior Jobs please let us know in the comments.  Plus we’ll add to this list as ideas and opportunities arise.


5.1 Ways to Save Money Everyday

Sign for minus 10 dollars off sale.

Saving money is a daunting task for many people.  A common thought is, “How can I save money if I am living pay check to pay check?”. Well there are ways to save even if you feel like you barely have the money to pay the bills and eat.

Here is a list of 5.1 things you can do everyday to save a few bucks.  Do these things and put the money away in an account or shoebox and don’t touch it.  Let it pile up and in 6 months you’ll be surprised.

1. Make Saving 1st

Instead of waiting until the end of the month to see if you have anything left over to save (which you won’t). Put away a few dollars at the beginning of the paycheck.  That way you won’t spend it on something that you didn’t need to.  Even if it is only $20, put it away 1st.  Its a simple budget system for saving.

2. Search for and Use Coupons

Just using your Safeway club card is not saving you as much as you could be saving.  My wife recently started printing coupons online for items she knew she was going to be buying at the supermarket.  We are saving more and more money using these coupons.

3. Buy Used Goods

You don’t NEED new, expensive things.  Want an iPod? Buy a used one that is a generation old.  If you buy new it is going to be out of date in 2 months anyway.  Want furniture for your house? Checkout craigslist or garage sales. Be patient and items you love will pop up for a fraction of the price.  Car broke down? That 2010 can wait.  Buy a 2001 and you’ll save thousands.

4. Use the internet

Instead of purchasing that newspaper or magazine, be patient, wait until you get home and use the internet.  You can access just about everything in the magazines and newspapers for FREE.  And its all the same junk so if the articles aren’t the exact same it doesn’t matter much, it will still entertain you.

5. Don’t Eat Out

You can even try cutting your nights out in half and I bet that would make a big difference.  Every time you want to go out, eat at home, then put that money in the old shoe box.

5.1 Leftovers

Eat those left overs.  Stop letting your appetite make your food decisions for you. You have an infinite amount of appetites, you can satisfy the next one.  The left overs are there and they taste good.  Eat them and save the money.

There you have it.  5.1 simple ways to save.  You can also check out how to absolutely waste money if you are not into saving it.