How I Managed My Personal Finance Before Budgeting Apps Like Mint

Personal and Professional Finances Are Connected

Yes, I’m talking about personal finance on a business blog. Why? Because at the end of the day numbers are numbers and for entrepreneurs, personal and professional finances are pretty intertwined.

In my early 20s, I was a finance professional and it seemed like everyone at work was talking about building a budget and thinking about retirement. Because of that, I got into personal budgeting before Mint even existed. It was a ton of work, I’d look at my bank account and my credit cards and then type in my rent, my utilities and my other main expense line items into Excel. I was looking at historic data (sort of) trying to figure out how much I spent on restaurants and groceries and going out. It took a lot of time, so at most I’d do it every 3-4 months. The numbers were all over the place and it wasn’t really helpful in deciding things like, “Can I go out to eat this week?” It was more just reminding myself every 3-4 months to eat out less and not spend so much money on my shopping category, which was essentially the “everything else” bucket. That category included pretty much anything from gifts for a niece to clothes to going to a movie. It was really hard to pin down exactly where my money was going.

I just had a vague, unmotivating sense that I should spend less. I’d feel guilty whenever I went out to a nice dinner, wondering how it was going to affect my plan to save 10% toward a rainy day fund. Or 7% toward a start my own company someday fund. It was fun when I’d log the numbers and realize I’d accidentally come in under budget one month, but honestly, it was hard for it to be more than an accident.

Then the budgeting app Mint (formerly known as showed up. I was living in San Francisco at the time and it was a very popular topic. I didn’t realize how much time and stress it has saved me over the last 10 years (yep, 10 years!) until recently.

I found one of my old spreadsheets and realized how inaccurate and minimally helpful looking at my finances months or weeks later was. Now when I need to make a budget decision, I just log into Mint, see how my budget is looking for the month, and then I can make guilt-free, clear decisions.

A Simple Tool to Make Budgeting Easier

The other key thing about Mint is you can see the dollars spent in recent months so you get a sense of whether you need to change your budget to fit your current lifestyle.

Maybe this year we have a lot of weddings to go to, so we’ll need to cut back on some other expenses to meet our savings goals (or not dip into the emergency fund!). Checking in throughout the month when I’m about to make a big purchase or want to see if we need to stop eating out just takes minutes. I refresh the app, maybe recategorize an out of place item, scroll down to the budget I’m worried about, then see if there is room in another budget. Can I splurge on groceries for a big party this month by reducing my restaurant budget and upping the grocery one? Of course I can! It’s my budget, it’s my finances.

Knowing how all the pieces fit together has been invaluable to me these last 10 years. It’s made it so I can make budget decisions with clarity and consistency. It’s given me a clear parameter of what I can and can’t spend. My budget has changed hundreds of times in the last 10 years, but even when I sometimes only check in once a month now, I have better control over my finances than ever.

No More Uncertainty for Business Owners

I built AutoCFO to do what Mint did for my personal finances for business owners. I recognized the same uncertainty of how the pieces fit together to achieve their goals from all of the entrepreneurs and CEOs I’ve spoken to over the last 10 years.

There is a better way to manage your business’s future now. Want to talk to an actual person? We have that too! To learn more take a look at our new virtual CFO service to learn more.