Mint

  1. a place where money is coined, especially under state authority.
  2. a vast sum of money.
  3. produce for the first time.
  4. a peppermint candy.

Which one do you think of when you hear the word Mint? Mint is my go to budgeting tool. I’ve suffered budgeting for decades trying to discern the ins and outs of Microsoft Money and Quicken and Andrew Tobias’s Managing Your Money which I ran on an Intel X386 laptop under DOS with 1 mb of ram and a 4 bit grey scale on a 12 inch black and white panel. It was better than a napkin but infuriating to get any work done. I had a dozen accounts between me and my wife including business accounts and retirement accounts etc So pretty much I did it in a spread sheet in simple categories gross money, tax money, net money, investment money, living expense money, based on my accounts and called it a day. The granularity didn’t tell me what was going on just that something was going on, but the energy hump for any of these programs to actually provide accurate information was beyond the pale. So I used the slop in the system as my protection. Make a buck, save some for me, save some for taxes. use some to live on. don’t spend too much. don’t go into debt. I always made more than I spent so forward progress happened. Sound familiar?

Eventually I retired and the slop method worked, I had a nice pile of money, I guess you might call it directed slop, but it wasn’t tuned except in a gross way. I came across Mint and it was what was needed. It is what what all those other programs promised to be. I use Mint strictly to track my cash flow and acquire data which I transfer to Excel. I have 2 hub accounts a bank account and a credit card account. Both accounts do a nice job of automatically tracking category and are amenable to learning my customization without a lot of muss and fuss so it’s easy to tease out insurance line items and taxes and housing costs etc with some means to drill down and it’s easy to see what a transaction was an go to the account record for more complete information. The bank account is used to store money for living but not a huge amount. My money is in the brokerage which is linked electronically to the bank. The credit card is also linked to the bank so I can pay that bill one touch. The credit card pays cash back so I charge virtually everything which generates an excellent transaction and category record and gives me recourse if I didn’t like the outcome of a transaction. The cash back goes strait to the brokerage for investment. The bank pays the CC as well as automated accounts like power and internet. My wife has some other credit cards for her business she uses and I pay those as just another bill.

Mint has an export feature that allows export of a comma delimited spreadsheet and I open that file in Excel and cut and paste each month into my master Excel money management spreadsheet. The sheets are multiple and form a book organized by years. I just started 2019. Once the data is copied into Excel I go through the list and change the sign of every transaction labeled “credit” to negative and leave the debits alone. If there is a special deal I don’t want to track like something being paid for from an non tracked account I set that entry to zero and put that amount out to the side so it gets tacked but not counted in the totals.

Here is an example

Since I changed the signs on credits and debits I just go to the bottom of the Amount column and hit AutoSum and get a to the penny accounting. Down load, cut, paste, change signs, AutoSum, DONE! Mind blown! Since the data is in Excel I can do custom totals and averaging and track expensive months and cheap months. My budgeting is based around a generous monthly maximum compared to my need. I usually don’t reach the maximum but some month I may go over a bit like I pay home owners insurance once a year so that’s a big month. Under months compensate for over months and Excel is not bugging me about artificial spending goals and helpful hints to “improve” my situation.

When I first retired I was still tuning my spending knowledge and what retirement was really going to cost not just some projected number, so I checked often. As time went on the routine became predictable so now I check twice a month unless there is a specific question. If I wonder if something got paid I just turn on Excel and look. 2 seconds. So I use Personal Capital to aggregate my portfolio and Mint and Excel to aggregate my cash flow. Both of these are so easy to use. I recommend!!

2 Replies to “Mint”

    1. Mint is a Godsend if you want to get granular because it lays stuff out automatically. I never ran a budget while on the W2, but once you retire you take back all your risk and the rubber of your “plan” meets the road leading into the future and you actually need to measure the accuracy of the plan. The other thing is money doesn’t flow in monthly amounts sometimes it’s quarterly, sometimes semi-annually, sometimes in large amounts like when the tax bill or college tuition comes due. All of that needs to be pre-planned in a way a little more granular than relying on the W2 to pick up the slack. I found it took about 18 months to achieve a high degree of probability for a reliable understanding of WR and not just a presumed WR. Understanding reality as opposed to projection is the best form of risk management.

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