A few months back, I was just a fan of Mint. I was very grateful that my finances were being tracked for me for free. However, I wasn’t doing much with that information.
A few weeks ago, Mint came out with a new feature that massively increased its usefulness. Which is, it’s ability to set and track financial goals.
The following is an excerpt from the Financial Freedom Blueprint, a gift I give away to all newsletter subscribers. The purpose of sharing this excerpt with you is to see how easy it is to set and track financial goals using Mint.
Setting Financial Goals
In case you were unaware, you’re actually reading version 2.0 of this course. It was originally written in fall of 2009. The main reason I decided to overhaul this course was because Mint came out with a goal setting feature, making saving for financial goals even easier.
The purpose of step # 8 is to take your goals you made in step # 5, and create a process of saving for these goals.
In order to complete today’s task you will need to have a savings account at a bank that lets you open sub-savings account. I use ING Direct, which was the first bank to have this feature. As I write this, more banks are letting their customers use sub-savings account. I recommend finding a bank that has this option and opening up an account. It will make saving for your goals, a lot easier.
Step # 1 – How Much Is Available?
Now that you have a good idea of your income and expenses from using Mint, look at the past few months of data and see how much money you have left over at the end of the month (after investing) to put towards your goals.
For example, say your average expenses, including your investments, the past three months were $2,200 and your income was $2,600 on average. Therefore, you have $400, at the end of each month to save towards your goals.
Step # 2 – Define Your Goals
If you know the amount you have available (the difference between your expenses, including investing, and income) to put towards your goals, you can begin coming up with a combination of goals that fit your budget.
Take time to review your list of goals now from step # 5. Next, come up with an estimated dollar amount and a deadline for each goal.
You might have to do a little research in order to complete this task. For example, one of my goals was to hike the sacred trail of Macchu Picchu. I looked up what flights, taxes, hotels, tour guides, food, etc… would cost for my wife and I to do the hike. I estimated that the trip would cost us $5,000.
Next, I looked up the time of the year that the trail is open. Good thing I did because it’s rainy season December through February in Peru. With this information, I set the deadline of November of 2011 to take the trip.
When you have a dollar amount and deadline for each goal, the next step is to find out what you need to save each month to achieve each goal. Back to my example, to hike Macchu Pichu I will need $5,000 in 16 months. Therefore, I will need to save $312.50 a month in order to achieve this goal.
This leaves me around $80 for my other goals. So I decide to host one party a month for my friends, at $50 a month. With only $30 left over, I decide to put it towards taking a martial arts class, which costs $250.
As for my Own category, since I don’t have any money left, I decide that I will put away any gifts, bonuses, rewards, and any other form of unexpected income until I have $1,500. I give myself a time frame of 12 months from now, to complete.
Step # 3 – Opening an Account for Each of Your Goals
Next, I set up a new savings account for each goal.
I set up 4 separate savings accounts in my ING Direct, account, nicknamed:
- Macchu Piccu
- Martial Arts
- Macbook Air
These four accounts are in addition to my checking account, which my paycheck is directly deposited into.
Finally, I set up a recurring monthly contribution from my checking account to each of these four sub-savings accounts, with the amount determined in the previous step.
Step # 4 – Tracking Your Financial Goal Using Mint
Now that I have defined my goals, outlined what I need to save on a monthly basis, opened up a sub-savings account, and paid my goals first, it’s time to implement a method to track each goal.
I log into your Mint.com account and select the goal tab.
On the goal tab, I select add a goal. I then fill in the information that Mint needs. After I have completed the form, Mint asks me if I need to open a new account for this goal. I select that I have an existing account and proceed to match the goal with the sub-savings account.
That’s it! I can sit back and watch my goal status bar fill up.
Moving Forward – Financial Goals Example
Paying your goals first, is one of the most important steps in this financial plan. Even if you have just 5% of income left over, always pay your goals first.
P.S. – Speaking of Mint, I have to share with you one of my favorite smoothie recipes. Blend a banana, a few strawberries, a little ice, a handful of walnuts, a spoonful of raisins, water, cocoa powder, and a few sprigs of mint. I promise, it tastes just as good as mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Photo by: Summer Tomato