How to make a shittier Mint.com

Spending less money is actually pretty easy once you realize it has a lot to do with mindsets and habits and less about willpower. In my last post I told you about how I was able to cut down my spending habits and stay on budget for the month by simply writing down my total month to date spend on a whiteboard every day. This worked well, but it took a lot of discipline to keep up. To be fair, getting yourself to do anything everyday requires a lot of discipline, until it becomes a habit.

The whiteboard technique worked pretty well because of two reasons:

  1. I forced myself to recognize every single thing I spent money on
  2. I was constantly reminded of my MTD spend since it was on the wall in my room

I’ve since developed an even more effortless technique that is even more fail proof. Here’s how it looks.

Every time I buy anything I punch it in to a Google Form on my phone

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Twice a day, I get an automated e-mail from myself giving me my MTD spend

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After getting in the habit of doing this, I’ve felt way more motivation to be more frugal.

It was actually pretty simple to set up. I’m not the most technically savvy person, but I was able to figure it out by myself in about 30 minutes. If you follow these directions, you can probably do it in 5. All you need is a google account.

First we need to create a Google Form. Google Forms allow you to create surveys and they populate the answers in a Google Sheet. In this example, we’re just going to create one single question: “How much?”

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Next, we link the form answers to a sheet like this.

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Select “Responses” then hit the “Sheets Icon”

The answers will automatically populate with a time in Column A, and your answer in Column B.

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You won’t have numbers yet, but this is what it will look like.

In the same sheet, we’re going to write a couple of simple formulas.

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Copy and paste the formulas to match below

Copy and Paste the following formulas in the exact cells.

In D2 paste =date(year(today()),month(today()),1)

This formula will calculate the first day of today’s month.

In D3 paste =date(year(today()),month(today())+1,1)

This formula will calculate the first day of the month after today’s month.

In F2 paste =sumifs(B:B,A:A,“>=”&D2,A:A,“<=”&D3)

This formula will sum all the values in column B, where dates in column A fall between these two dates.

So now, in this sheet we have the running sum of everything you spent this month. This will change dynamically as you continue to input more transactions to the form. It will also reset automatically every month.

But there’s no point in going through the trouble of calculating this number, unless it’s constantly in your face, so let’s automatically e-mail it to ourselves. We need to write a script to tell google to pull this number and e-mail to us. It’s important to note that a script is different from a formula (like the ones we just wrote).

To write a script you need to go to the Script Editor here

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Select “Tools”, then “Script editor”

We can use this script to set it up.

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Copy and paste below

function MTDspend() {
var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet();
var dataRange = sheet.getRange(2,6)
var values = dataRange.getValues()
MailApp.sendEmail(“your@email.com”, “You Spent “+ values + ” dollars MTD” , values);
}

I won’t go into detail on how this works, but basically it is saying to store the value of F2 and e-mail it to ourselves. I chose to put the value in the subject of the e-mail along with some hardcoded text.

The only thing you might need to know is the syntax is MailApp.sendEmail(“your e-mail address“, “what you want in the header of e-mail“, “what you want in the body of e-mail“)

Now we have a script that will email the data (your MTD spend) in a particular cell.

The problem now is, we need to get the script to run on it’s own without us having to prompt it.

You can set up scripts to run automatically by going to the settings here.

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Select “Resources” then “All your triggers”

Select the time you want it to run. I chose twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

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Set the time you want it to run

And we’re done.

Now you’ll get two daily reminders on your MTD spend e-mailed directly to your phone.

To make things even easier, I created a shortcut on my phone home screen, so I can easily access it at any time. It literally takes about four seconds for me to punch it what I spent.

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Select Add to home screen from your browser

The first question I got from the first person I showed this to was “So, you basically just created a shittier Mint?”

Yes, yes I did. But it works because it is manual. The manual part is what forces you to acknowledge what you are spending while you’re spending it, and the e-mail part is a constant reminder that you spent it. I strongly believe these two put together will help change your habits.

I hope these directions were easy to follow. Please give me feedback if they weren’t.