Smart About Money: Keeping an eye on your money in 2024 …

Nick Maffeo Late last year, the news came out that Intuit was shutting down its budgeting app, Mint. One news report said it was because most people are not much interested in managing their money – supposedly because personal money management is not “fun.”

Although Mint was referred to as “beloved,” the reality was that this free app was not important enough to their business model for Intuit to keep supporting it, especially after they acquired another much-larger personal finance app, Credit Karma.

(A number of companies have discovered that many people actually do want a budgeting app but most aren’t willing to pay for it. So it’s probably no surprise that the days of Mint and other free apps are numbered. Credit Karma says they make money from targeted advertising and referral fees paid by 3rd parties.)

People I run into seem to be quite interested in keeping an eye on their money. Whether they want to use an app for that is another issue.

One law of the internet is that if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product – meaning that most times in those cases you are providing something of value to the company, often your personal information. Unfortunately that can also be the case with online services you are paying for.

As people get more accustomed to how the internet works, some are becoming uneasy about how much of their information companies collect, use and sell. It is a valid concern.

If you’re concerned about the security of your personal information or you’re just tired of apps coming and going or charging more and more, it is possible – absolutely! – to keep an eye on your money without using a free or paid budgeting app.

No matter what method you use, if your bills are paid on time and you have the feeling you’re on top of your finances, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, if you’re consistently late paying bills and you feel out of control with your finances, some alterations may be needed.

Reviewing your financial statements carefully every month is a critical personal finance task. If there’s a problem, that’s one place where it will show up. If you choose to balance your checkbook or do other tracking, that’s great. But carefully reviewing your bank/credit card/investment statements every month is what matters because often there’s a limited time to get an error corrected.

Every bank, credit card company and investment brokerage offers free online access to monthly statements. Whether you’re reviewing statements on paper or online, do it a time when you won’t be distracted and miss something important like a strange, unrecognized transaction, an auto-renewal for a service you never use or a deposit or refund that didn’t appear in your account.

Have a basic idea of your typical monthly expenses, so you’ll know if anything is out of whack. Some people use Excel spreadsheets or pen and paper. Others have an idea in the back of their heads of what their numbers should be, so they “just know.” Again – as long as it’s working for you – any method is fine. Including apps.

Keeping an eye on your money doesn’t have to take a great deal of time but it will take some time – time only you can spend. A lot of people even think it’s “fun.”

From the “Smart About Money” Canton Citizen column published on January 25, 2024.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton.
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