Beeminder Forum

How do you beemind your finances?

I think I could seriously use a yellow brick road for my money, and I want it to be as easy as possible. Counting grams of sugar didn’t work well for me, and while I expect money spent to be a bit easier, it would be amazing if I could automate it.

Does the Mint.com app or any other financey app integrate somehow with beeminder? (In case anyone else is about to check—I just looked on Zapier and they don’t have Mint support.)

If not, what sorts of system(s) do you use to beemind expenses or whatever?

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i have two spendy goals (1 and 2).

the first one is a binary goal for updating a google doc spreadsheet in which i track all my bank/investment balances, credit card balances, income, and expenses. the beeminding here is not about controlling the inflows/outflows, but about being aware of whatever they are. (i could achieve the same thing by hooking everything up to mint, but for various reasons i don’t want to.) this goal has been incredibly helpful for me - i have never in my life tracked my money for longer than two weeks, and now i have a record going back 5.5 months so far!

the second goal is an attempt to beemind outflows as a do-less, updating with a datapoint every time i swipe my card anywhere (thanks smsbot <3). i don’t think this one has been particularly useful for me yet, for a couple reasons. i can see this goal being a little tricky if my expenses swayed in the “unexpectedly higher” direction, rather than the “unexpectedly way lower” direction they have swayed over the last 4-5 weeks (yay for that though). i should update my fine print to account for emergency-type things like that.

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I’m a big YNAB supporter. I’ve been using it about a year and a half now, and we were able to put over 55k into savings directly because of it. Best $60 I’ve spent. The methodology is what really works, and their integration over multiple systems is huge. We enter transactions as they occur, but you could set a weekly “update YNAB” goal or you could probably integrate it with files that get updated on dropbox (the system they use to sync).

I’ve intentionally left out my referral link just because I believe in it so much.

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You should totally use your referral link! You may have just convinced me. Dropbox-based syncing opens up automatic beeminding possibilities, since Dropbox has Zapier integration.

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Fine fine. But before anyone jumps into using YNAB, I’d really check out their website and look into the methodology. I’ve known someone who bought the software and was disappointed because they thought it was a magical solution and weren’t ready/willing to make a mindset change about money.

Here’s my referral link. It’s normally $60, but the referral link gives $6 off for the user, and I’d make $6 too. Otherwise, you can wait for one of their sales. They normally do a half off on Black Friday and once did a Steam sale.

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The most useful financial metric I’ve ever tracked was:

Days I had to wait until I could spend money again.

This was long before beeminder. I had a huge spreadsheet that (1) tracked every account balance (including cash) and every transaction. It also computed how much I had to (2) save to offset deprecation and recurring expenses. And it divided money into categories such as (3) food, household, luxury, automated spending, general expenses. So it could happen that I would have to wait a weeks for candy, but groceries were ok right now.

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Days I had to wait until I could spend money again.

Huh, how did this work? Can you give an example?

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For example, let’s say I budget 50EUR per month of fun money, i.e. 1.67EUR per day. (I was a very poor student a long time ago.) Suppose it’s the start of the month and I have no backlog. This concert comes at 35EUR including transportation. 35/1.67=21, so I’d have to wait until to the 21st of the month to buy it. Since I really want the concert, I take 35EUR out of the fun money and put it into the committed-but-pending-expenses money.

Let’s say I also want a candy bar for 1.67EUR. Candy isn’t healthy, so it comes out of the fun budget, too. Fun money is at -35EUR right now, i.e. at 21 days of backlog. So I’ll have to wait until the 22nd to buy the candy bar.

Do I want the concert or the candy? There’s no right or wrong answer, but the budget forces me to make a choice. Or I could increase the fun budget, if I can find a way to spend less on something else.

Fortunately, the spreadsheet handles all the complicated maths. (On an unrelated note, it was my learning project for Excel, and I really enjoyed tinkering until I had effortless bookkeeping. Except syncing with the bank statements - there was no way to automate that back then.)

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I’d like to bump this, to see if anyone else has any ideas. My wife and I are going to start trying for a kid this summer, and not only will that be expensive in its own right, but it’ll mean me choosing to work less (and/or work from home), which means less money coming in. So I really need to get serious about watching my money, and doing it well before the kid arrives seems like the smartest course of action. I’d love it if Beeminder had automatic Mint integration, but since that hasn’t happened yet, does anyone have any ideas on what’s best and easiest to Beemind? One of my goals is being archived (successfully!) in a week, so I want to replace it with something money-minded.

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I think it would depend on what part of your finances you are wanting to focus on: reducing expenses or increasing savings.

For reducing expenses, I also use Mint.com, but I’ve added a HabitRPG weekly task to go in and fix uncategorized expenses. This also forces me to view my budgets and how I am doing in each.

For increasing savings, I believe the best is to set up automatic transfers from your paycheck. Depending on your needs this could be to a savings account (NOT linked to a debit card for better self control), a retirement account like a 401K/IRA, or tax-advantaged savings account for your child like an UGMA/UTMA.

If I’m reading into your post correctly (self-employed?), it might not be possible to set up automatic transfers, so you could Beemind the value in the savings vehicle to ensure that you do a manual transfer regularly.

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This is an excellent way to use Beeminder, too. Not to beemind your finances directly, but to make sure that you’re paying regular attention to whatever system you’re using to mind your finances.

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Wheels within wheels!

I am self-employed, but I’m currently making pretty steady money (long-term contract with a client that pays weekly via direct deposit), so I do have automatic transfers to my savings account. Not sure I’m saving enough, though. Years of being a freelancer with an unreliable cash flow have made me skittish of socking aside too much at a time, which I know is silly.

I think spending less is more urgent, though. Right now I’m spending uncomfortably close to all of what I earn, and I don’t like what that’ll mean when I start earning less. Better to get in the habit of spending much less now while I’m still making more. Right?

The things I regularly go overbudget on are food (delivery, groceries, and restaurants), Cash/ATM, and “Everything Else”. I’m thinking maybe tracking/tagging my cash spending, while tedious and annoying, would be worthwhile. And probably I should break out some subcategories from “Everything Else”, so I can get a more granular view of where my money is going.

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I’ve decided to make a “do more” goal that gives me a point every time I categorize a cash transaction. I’m hoping to use Mint’s Android app as much as possible, but the last time I tried to use it I gave up in frustration, so unless they’ve improved it significantly that might not be practical. In that case I’ll try to do it via the web interface. For now I’ll keep the goal flat and just try to do it as much as possible, then ramp the frequency up a bit once I’ve gotten into the habit.

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The Mint Android app is still pretty annoying. Often when you’re entering a new transaction it decides to just randomly cancel, and entering a new payee takes too long. I just recently switched from Mint to YNAB — the YNAB Android app is light-years better, really a joy to use. (I know Mint and YNAB do not have exactly the same set of features.)

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Thanks! I downloaded the trial version of YNAB and am gonna give it a try!

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YNAB is free for college students. This includes graduate students and part time students. I’m taking just one class, and I was able to take advantage of this.

(Technically: they give you a yearlong, full-featured trial that you can later renew at the end of the year if you’re still taking classes.)

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I know we’re all about automation but YNAB really shines when you’re forcing yourself to manually enter data. I look at finances very similar to diet. Both require conscientious effort to improve. Right now, my wife and I are saving over 50% of our income because of YNAB. We couldn’t have done it without it.

Again with the diets, but limiting options really helps me. I just don’t spend as much money now. I budget $25 a month for clothes but I still have trouble actually spending it because my general spending is just so much lower. I buy from the grocery store and that’s about it.
This is just like my eating options, if it’s not in the house I’m not going to eat it!

The YNAB program is fantastic and really has some awesome content to help you along in your journey. From a longerterm perspective, I don’t think it’s that great, and you shouldn’t be using it for tracking retirement. We do use it to track mortgage principal payments though.

I’m kind of losing any train of thought that I had or really where I was going other than YNAB is fantastic and the fact that it isn’t automatic makes it better. Mint never worked for me because it was always AFTER the fact. “Oh look, we spent XYZ on a lot of terrible things. That sucks and we should stop that.” vs. pro-active YNAB thinking - “Hey, I have 10,000 in all of my accounts. How the hell are we going to allocate those dollars.” Very little guilt if I overspend because I know that I HAVE to find the money from somewhere!

/endramblings.

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So the good news is I’m pretty hooked on YNAB now. I’ve been downloading transactions from my bank’s two main accounts and importing them into YNAB pretty much every day since I downloaded it, and I’ve been tracking all my cash transactions with the Android app (which is indeed much, much better than Mint’s). The bad news is that my Beeminder goal (getting a point every time I tracked a transaction) was a bust. It just made tracking cash transactions more arduous when I had to update Beeminder as well as the YNAB app every time I spent anything. So I’m archiving that goal and today I started a new one. It’s a custom odometer do less goal (support at Beeminder told me how to make one, because they’re awesome.) Basically, every time I import transactions into my YNAB software, I’ll enter the figure it shows for my dollars spent so far this month on food (groceries + restaurants + delivery + lunch). Beeminder will keep me to a set amount per week, and as I get more used to staying within that amount, I’ll crank it down gradually so that I’m eventually spending less. At the beginning of each month I’ll enter a zero to reset the odometer, so it’ll always match YNAB’s numbers. I’m really optimistic about this one! Hoping it gives me the sting I need to stay in line.

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Ooh, automating my food expenditures via YNAB’s Dropbox integration sounds pretty awesome. I just wish I was handy with Zapier. How tricky would it be for a novice to set up, do you think?

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