Line by line

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I just logged onto Mint to do my daily account check and was alerted to a finance charge on my credit card!!! No way!!!!

I knew I paid the balance in full before the due date, as I hate to pay to borrow money (But it does happen. I like to travel and that’s not always cheap). So, I went back through the online statement and made sure my math was correct and that it wasn’t my mistake. Nope. It was theirs.

I called the number on the back of the card and the customer service guy went through the  credits and debits and mentioned every possible way that the finance charge was correct. Once he had determined that, yes, the charge was actually incorrect, he reversed it.  It wasn’t a huge amount, but why pay for something that I don’t owe?

It pays to go through each of your account statements, line by line, every month. Computers do make errors and those errors might be costing you money.

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Track your budget

Although I love to shop, I’m always on top of my finances.  As you may or may not know, I’m cheap. So I use the free budget tracking website Mint.com.  It’s owned by Intuit, the same company that makes TurboTax and QuickBooks, so it’s trustworthy.

Set-up is super easy. On your first log-in you input all of your log ins and passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, loans, retirement accounts, mortgages, student loans, store cards, etc. Mint downloads all of your transactions and you (or Mint) assign a spending category to each transaction. On future downloads, Mint will use your previous category assignment to categorize new transactions. Mint also does a pretty good job of recognizing merchants and assigning the right category. You can always change the category and add your own. You have the option of splitting transactions into multiple categories, too.  Cash transactions can be manually added as well.

After a couple months of using Mint regularly, the software gets to know your spending habits. It does some magical calculator math and determines your budget for you. Trust me, it’s a bit shocking. But it does make you more aware of where your money is going.  You have the ability to change the budget limits and the software lets you set financial goals.

Mint keeps track of your payment due dates and alerts you on the site and by e-mail. It recommends ways in which you can save money. It also shows your your net worth. Eek!! Nothing like a good slap in the face from a stupid computer.

I fully recommend Mint. I’ve been using it for years and I’m 100% satisfied. I log in at least 5 times a week and I know where every penny goes.

Put your cash to work

I’ve heard of a small movement in which people live solely on cash.  They only pay cash for their necessities.  And they keep the extras to a bare minimum. They don’t use credit at all.  I don’t think that’s very smart.

I completely agree with not buying something unless you have the cash for it and cutting out the extras. I wish I were able to stick to those ideas a little better. However, use credit cards to your advantage. You could be earning cash, gift cards, flights, etc. There are so many cards out there that will make your money work for you.  You just have to know what you’re looking for and what works for you.

  • I don’t apply for any credit card that has an annual fee. I’m cheap. I’d rather not pay for my freebies.  However, the earnings potential goes up greatly when you have a card that has an annual fee.  As far as I know, none of the major airlines offer a no annual fee credit card. But if you know you’re going on vacation, it might actually be worth it to pay a fee for a card that’s going to earn you free flights.  Just do the math first.
  • I use my credit card as much as I possibly can. Unless a store doesn’t take major credit cards or there’s a transaction fee or I have a better deal with a store credit card, I use my credit card that earns cashback for every single purchase I make. I’ll use it for ANYTHING.  I charged the maximum amount ($5000) that the car dealer would let me charge when I bought my car (I had the cash to cover it).  I’ve used it for a 59 cent bag of M&M’s.  I have no shame. I earn at least 1% cashback on every purchase and sometimes up to 5%. If they’ll give it, I’ll take it.
  • I pay my credit card off every month. If I don’t pay off the entire statement amount, I pay interest. My interest rate is 12.99%. I’m no calculator, but that appears to be about 11.99% higher than my 1% cashback earnings.

You can still live the “Envelope Budgeting” lifestyle with a credit card. You just have to have a lot of self-control and a little spending savvy.