How to Create Your Budget in Mint (for Free) in 10 Simple Steps

Andy Hill Nicole Hill Budget

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If you want to improve your financial situation, developing and living on a budget definitely helps. By doing this, you are creating a detailed map that will guide you to financial freedom.

Mint is our family’s budgeting software of choice. We’ve done some incredible things with Mint:

We are so proud of the progress we’ve made. We attribute this success to working together and staying on a monthly budget with Mint.

Now using Mint isn’t a requirement. There are many helpful tools and options when it comes to creating your first budget. You can choose online tools like Mint, YNAB, Zeta, Tiller, HoneyFi or even an excel template.

Even writing down your first budget on a piece of paper is a great way to start!

We’ve been using Mint for over 8 years and I’d highly recommend it. Here are some stand out Mint features to mention right off the bat:

  • It’s priced right … FREE
  • Automatically syncs up with your accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc).
  • A convenient smartphone app lets you see your budget activity in real-time
  • Tracks your net worth so you can see your progress over time

Mint gives you the information you need to take control of your financial future. If you are interested in starting your first budget on Mint, here are 10 simple steps to get it done:

1. Sign Up for Free

Visit Mint and click “Sign Up Free”.

Mint Home Page

Enter your preferred email, insert your phone number (for extra security and 2-step verification) and create a secure password.

Mint Log in Screen

Confirm your location to better customize the experience.

Mint Location Verification

2. Link Your First Account

Link to your checking, savings, credit card, and investment accounts.

Mint Account Link

As an example pictured below, I’m going to link up to an American Express credit card account.

Mint Account Link

3. Link All of Your Accounts

Once you’ve linked up one account, be sure to link all of your other accounts by clicking on the “+Add Accounts” tab at the top of the page.

Mint Budget

4. Define Your Budget Categories

Once all of your accounts are loaded in, click on “Budgets” in the menu at the top of the page.

Mint Budget

In the budgets area, you will see that Mint has already begun placing your items into specific categories for you. Now some of these categories will be correct and some you’ll want to change to fit your preferences. Click “+Create a Budget” to begin creating your preferred categories.

Mint Budget

Your income is a great place to start.

Choose the “Income” category in the drop-down menu “Choose a Category”. You’ll need to define the way you receive income (paycheck, dividends, business income), the frequency you get paid (monthly, every few months or once) and the amount.

Mint Budget

5. Add Your Budget Necessities

After your income is set in Mint, start adding your expense categories in the same fashion as you did with the income. Start off with the important necessities like mortgage, rent, groceries, clothing and your individual utility bills.

Mint budget categories

6. Don’t Exceed Your Budget

As you start to add these important monthly categories, you’ll see the “You’ve Budgeted” section shows you how much you have left over. Don’t let that “Left Over” number turn red or you’ve already gone over budget!

Mint Budget

7. Add Expenses That Align With Your Goals

Once you’ve added all of the important necessities, start to add your expenses that are aligned with your dreams and goals for your future. This is when I’d recommend adding categories like savings, paying off debt and retirement investments.

For example, let’s say you have a medical debt of $1,000 that has been weighing on you for years. With Mint, you can allocate $200 month for the next 5 months to pay that sucker off!

Mint Budget

You’ll need to adjust other areas of your budget to ensure you have $200 free to pay off that debt, but that is where Mint really comes in handy!

8. Create a Zero-Based Budget

The goal at the end of the budgeting process is to have your “Left Over” amount equal ZERO. This way you are giving each of your dollars an assignment each month so they are working for you! This is called a “Zero-Based Budget”.

Mint Budget

9. Reorganize Misplaced Expenses

Mint will do its best to categorize your expenses throughout the month. If Mint is unsure what category you’d prefer, it places those expenses in the “Everything Else” section at the bottom of the budget page.

Mint Budget

When that happens, you’ll need to update the categories to fit in your budget.

For example, I have a “taxi” expense from a Lyft ride that I took the other day that was not budgeted. If I’m using Lyft on a semi-frequent basis, then I’ll need to make sure I’m budgeting for that going forward.

10. Commit and Succeed

My wife and I get together on the first of each month for our “Budget Party“. We choose the first of the month because Mint only allows you to budget for the month you’re actually in. For example, on February 1st we reviewed how we did in January and we also budgeted for the month of February. Set a date and time that works well for you and stick to it.

If you’ve never developed or lived on a budget before, you’re not going to get this right for the first couple of months. That’s okay! If you truly care about making a change in your finances, keep at it. From my experience, the time spent budgeting is totally worth it.

If you want to try something more geared towards couples, check out Zeta or Honeyfi.


how do you keep track of your money?

please let us know in the comments below.




Author: Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the host of the Marriage, Kids and Money Podcast which focuses on helping young families build wealth. This 5-star rated podcast was nominated as "Best New Personal Finance Podcast" by Plutus. Andy's advice and personal finance experience have been featured in major media outlets like Business Insider, MarketWatch and NBC News.

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