Meet Emily and Jay. About two and a half years ago they decided to pursue a dream. A BIG dream.
Read on to see how they came together, made a plan, and dared to take the dream ride of their lives.
Hi Emily and Jay! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with Mint. Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Emily is 29 (30 in July), grew up in southern Maine, and has an undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Vermont and a Masters in Social Work from Colorado State University.
She currently works as a Program Coordinator for the University of Michigan where she helps run the Michigan College Advising Corps- a program that assists first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students in accessing higher education.
Jay is 35, grew up in Rockford, Illinois, and has a Master’s degree in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University as well as a Law Degree from the University of Utah.
He currently works as the Director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution at the University of Michigan where he’s responsible for administering a spectrum-based approach to student conduct and conflict management that aims to build trust, promote justice, and teach peace.
We met in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2006 and married in July, 2011. We moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan (where we currently reside) for work in 2010.
We both enjoy running, traveling, reading and of course, riding motorcycles!
Do you tend to be a saver, a spender, or are you finance-agnostic?
Although we both have enjoyed many privileges that have gotten us to where we are today, neither of us comes from wealth (as it’s traditionally understood in American culture).
For this reason, we have both always lived very frugally and even as our incomes have increased over the years, we continue to maintain our thriftiness.
This has allowed us to consistently set aside money into savings. As is obvious through our upcoming adventure, our big expenditures tend to be experiences rather than “things”.
What were your money challenges before using Mint regularly?
When we took that big step of combining our finances we needed to wrap our heads around what our financial situation really looked like.
We had both managed our own money in different ways, so coming to an agreement on how we would go about this together was a process.
Emily still used an old fashioned check register and being 5 years younger than Jay and saddled with student loan debt had never known what it was like to have discretionary income, let alone any savings to speak of.
Jay recorded his expenses using Excel and had always found a way to set aside some money into savings as well as a retirement account and investment group.
Mint helped us look at our combined income and expenses in a holistic and uniform way.
When did you first start using Mint and what prompted you to give it a try?
About 2 ½ years ago, we decided to start on the path to pursuing a dream we had talked about since the day we met- ride motorcycles from the United States to the southernmost tip of South America-Tierra del Fuego.
We entitled this year-long adventure The Live It Right Dream Ride.
One of the first steps in making this dream come true was creating a financial plan that would allow us to set aside a hefty pot of money.
We needed a way to hone in on our expenses so we could determine where cuts would be possible, and set a realistic monthly savings goal.
Up to this point, we had been utilizing Excel spreadsheets to track our expenses, but we were looking for something that would allow us to easily categorize and monitor all our financial transactions.
We considered using Quicken and iBank, but decided not to use them because they didn’t completely satisfy our needs.
A friend who works as a financial advisor for Fidelity told us about Mint and we loved it!
It provides just the service we were looking for to help with our already sophisticated Excel budgeting, tracking, and forecasting spreadsheets.
Mint filled in the missing link by providing an easy way to track and categorize expenditures.
Do you use the Web app, the tablet app or the smartphone app (or all three)?
We mostly use the web app, however we occasionally will use the smartphone app- specifically, to log any cash purchases at the time of the transaction.
Other than your Dream Ride, what was another financial goal you hoped Mint would help you achieve?
Mint has helped us better understand our buying patterns and habits in a way that will benefit us beyond the trip.
How do you make Mint work for you?
We make Mint work for us by religiously logging in to categorize expenses (at the very least on a monthly basis, but usually more frequently).
At the end of each month, we use Mint to show us how much we spent in each category and log those numbers into an Excel tracking spreadsheet.
We also periodically check Mint Trends throughout the month to make sure we’re on track to stay at or below our monthly budget in each category.
Are there any tips or “secret tricks” for the app that you use often?
We have learned that when we are tracking expenses related to a one-time category, such as a vacation, it is really helpful to create a special tag and use the “hide/show tag” option when doing our monthly calculations.
Hiding the tag while calculating the rest of the monthly trends saves us the time of trying to subtract out the expenses associated with that one time cost from our normal monthly spending.
How did Mint change your or your loved ones’ buying/saving behavior (or did it)?
Mint allowed us to get a really accurate picture of where our money was being spent.
Armed with that knowledge, we were able to make cuts in certain areas, allowing us to put more money toward our savings goals.
For example, we discovered that we spent a substantial amount each month on groceries. We decided to shop at a more affordable, less frills grocery store for one month to see what the savings would be.
Through using Mint to categorize and track those expenses, we were able to determine that we did in fact cut our grocery bill significantly. We now shop primarily at the more economical store.
The same is true for the money we spent at coffee shops.
After realizing how much we were actually spending on coffee drinks, we cut back on the specialty lattes and stuck to making coffee at home, or enjoying the plain old drip version at coffee shops.
After starting with Mint, we were able to decrease our overall monthly spending by about $200!
How did Mint help ease your financial challenge(s)?
Mint has given us the tools to not only progress toward a lofty savings goal for The Live It Right Dream Ride, but also to find cuts in our spending such that we can pay a little extra each month toward our student loan with the highest interest rate.
At the monthly amount we are currently paying, we will cut years and thousands of dollars of interest off the total payments.
What was the most surprising or coolest benefit of using Mint?
By far the coolest and most exciting benefit of using Mint is our ability to save the money necessary to pursue The Live It Right Dream Ride!
Achieving this savings goal has taken diligence, dedication, and sacrifice.
Utilizing the personal finance tools through Mint.com gave us the know-how and courage to begin the journey and continues to make the route a bit less bumpy.
Describe Mint in one word.
Thank you Emily and Jay for sharing your story with us!
If you want to learn more about their Live It Right Dream Ride, and keep up with them along their journey, check out their blog, Live It Right Dream Ride.