I’ve lived on a teacher’s salary for the past nine years, and for much of that time, I waited tables at night to make ends meet. I felt like I was doing everything I was supposed to do as a responsible citizen: bought a house, paid my bills, saved for retirement, and even donated to different causes. But I never felt like I was financially secure. Instead, I felt like I was losing control of my money and where it was going. I was exhausted from working 60+ hours a week between both jobs, but there were some months when the bills still piled up.
I first heard about Mint from one my favorite financial gurus, Clark Howard, about five years ago. He had mentioned how easy it was to use and that it was FREE. I used budgeting tools that weren’t user friendly and required an annual fee, so I figured I would give Mint a try. What did I have to lose? I set up all of my accounts, created a budget and before I knew it, began to take back control of my finances.
First, I realized I had been mindlessly spending more than I previously thought, so I started planning my expenditures ahead of time and tracking my daily spending. My favorite Mint feature was the budget bar graph that showed me how close I was to approaching my budget limit. With a quick glance on my phone, I could see if I was spending too much in one month and made adjustments accordingly. I still look at my bar graphs daily – I love that it’s color-coded with the red, yellow, and green bars to signify where I’m at in my monthly spending. I’ve been known to pull up the app at the grocery store to see how much I have left to spend on food for the month! Mint really helped change my behavior: it was instant accountability, at my disposal anytime.
I also loved my income bar graph. Because my second job was unsteady income, it made it harder to manage and plan for. With Mint, I could see how close I was to making the income I needed for each month. I would deposit my tips after every shift so I had a record of how much I was making, and Mint would have a record of it to help with my planning. Some months, I would pick up extra shifts if I saw my income would not cover my expenses for the month. After several months of visibility into my spending habits and making the required reductions, I was able to quit my waitressing job and focus on what I love most: teaching.
The best part about using Mint is that it shows me my entire financial picture. It helps me understand my hard work paid off and I AM on the right track with my money after all. I see all of my retirement accounts, property, and various other assets all in one place. Now I know that even when the months get hard, I am heading toward the right path with Mint!
Jennifer Haymes is a business and marketing teacher in Clemmons, NC and an alumna of North Carolina State University. She loves all things business – including Shark Tank – and is busy planning for her wedding later this month.
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