Intro to Adulting Part 1: Team Girlboss Learns to Organize That $$$
You might’ve noticed that here at Girlboss, making sure you gals are on top of your money matters is a priority, because financial independence is kinda sorta one of the keys to owning the eff out of your life. And even though it’s getting better, historically speaking, women haven’t been given the same resources and education as men when it comes to handling that green. In recent months, we’ve put out some terrific finance-themed Girlboss Radio episodes (Finance & the City with Farnoosh Torabi! What We Learned From Our Parents! Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck! Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest!), and around the office it got Team Girlboss talking candidly about our own finances. As it turned out, a number of us had recently tried to take a more serious look at our current and future financial pictures.
We wanted to share our initial experiences with you so that any of you out there worried that it’s too complicated or too late can take comfort in the fact that we are also a bunch of noobs. In part one this week, we’ll start with the basics and getting a grasp on organization; stay tuned for part two, where we’ll discuss more hands-on advising and putting that money to work with investments!
Here are Deena's early experiences with Mint, a (free!) big-picture budgeting and financial-organization platform:
Describe your starting knowledge about finances prior to this moment in time.
WOOF. Not great? I’m lucky to have been raised by a dad that made sure we paid at least a little bit of attention to this stuff all growing up, but it’s not something I really took an active interest in. He managed to instill the importance of having good credit early on, so I actually started building credit in high school and was really good about always paying it off in full, but eventually that fell by the wayside after I got out of college. Still, I’m grateful someone pushed me to get started early and that I have a healthy fear of getting into too much credit card debt.
What inspired you to start investing/saving/budgeting?
I first signed up for Mint around the new year in 2014. I was freelancing and waiting tables at the time and my finances were in a pretty dire state, as evidenced by this weekly update that was sent to me at one point:
Which brings me to the first lesson I learned from Mint: If your update comes back to you in the shape of a doughnut, and that doughnut is made up of $7.30 worth of Chicken McNuggets, that’s not good (though it is pretty impressive in it’s own sad way, no?). Unsurprisingly, my Mint-ing fell apart soon thereafter; it doesn’t work unless you commit to it, and you have to constantly remind yourself not to feel judged when it tells you you’re spending too much money at the bar (again). But after listening to the finance podcast episodes, it motivated me to give it another shot. These women made it sound easy!
For the sake of full disclosure, I’m 30 and I only started seriously looking at this a few months ago. And to be quite honest, if something like Mint didn’t exist, I probably just...wouldn’t worry about it? But I’ve been feeling much more in control of things since (though I’m not gonna lie, the truth hurts sometimes!)
What’s been your favorite part about Mint platform so far?
After you input all your credit cards and interest rates, you merge it with the day you want to be debt free and how much you’re able to pay off per month. Then it prioritizes your payments and let’s you know how much to pay on each one so you can meet your goal. I know that for me, I was just kind of deciding on a whim how much to pay each month (which is not a recommended method).
Another great feature when you’re getting set up: If you’re not sure what you should be budgeting for, say, restaurants and fun, you can look at a graph of your spending habits over a period of a couple of months and get a pretty good idea. Once you’ve figured out what you’re spending roughly on each category, you can determine where you might be spending too much and make a conscious effort to scale back if you need to.
Also: the “goals” tab. The benefits of deciding what your goals are sound obvious, but until you actually put the numbers in and are thinking about it often throughout the month, it’s so easy to let those things fall by the wayside. I always feel the least stressed on this tab, even if I’m falling short of my goals, because it reminds you of what you’re working for and keeps your projected achievement date on your mind.
What’s still murky at this point and what are you still hoping to learn more about?
You have so much information at your disposal, and it can get a little overwhelming. Tinker around for a bit and you’ll find that you can compare your spending habits to your previous time frames (though this only helpful if you’ve been logging your transactions for a while) or even see how your spending habits stack up against the rest of the country’s. After you’ve set yourself up, Mint offers you recommendations for next steps, like considering whether you should invest a portion of your savings, put more into retirement, or how to open a high-yield savings account. I hope I’ll get to that point soon, but for now, logging expenses and paying closer attention to how much I’m spending on all the various categories seems like work enough.
Other things to know:
You have to train your Mint account! Some of your transactions will either come in under the wrong category or come in uncategorized, and you’ll have to manually designate where that purchase went. Eventually, it learns to recognize repeat merchants and should start doing it for you, but if you don’t put this effort in, you won’t be getting an accurate picture. If you’ve never really looked at your finances before, this can seem like a big undertaking, but I try and do it first thing in the morning when I’m doing my first email check, etc. You generally only have a couple of things you need to categorize, and over time, the big picture will be much more accurate.
Stay tuned for the next installment on one-on-one advising with LearnVest and investing your money with Ellevest. In the meantime, join us in our joint effort with Prudential to get y’all to save 1% more for retirement each month.