Spending Trends 2017

We use Mint to track our spending. We’ve been doing so since 2008 and so after 9 years, we’ve amassed a trove of data[1] that helps us analyze where and how often we spend our money. I usually tweet out certain tidbits but I thought I could share them on here for better perusal and sharing. Of course, I will not share exact dollar amounts we spent but only overall trends and at the most name merchants that we frequented more often than others. Previously, I blogged about exact dollar amounts we earned as part of our credit card cashback.

Overall, we ended up spending quite a bit more compared to 2016. We frequented 332 distinct merchants in 2017[2].

Big Increase Categories

But first, paying to replace the aging roof out of our own pocket[3] accounted for nearly half of that increase. Also, we did start remodeling our bathroom so the ‘Home Improvement’ category was much to blame. But it’s an investment in your home so money well spent. Second, we noticed we spent more on eating out especially at fine dining places. Here are the top ten places we ate out at ordered by the amount we spent:

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  1. Admittedly, so has Mint []
  2. Think about that when you’re estimating the economic impact of one family on a region []
  3. AllState is known for evaluating very strictly and admittedly, we didn’t have much hail damage. The roof was just too old. []

Fixing Mint’s Wrong Budget Counts

I have been using Mint for compiling and analyzing my financial history for the past couple of years. It is an amazing product and completely online. It syncs to your bank accounts, credit cards, and even PayPal accounts and gives you a quick snapshot of your spending history. One of its trumpeted features is Planning and Budgets which allows you to set a budget for certain categories and it tracks the progress over the month. For the past couple of months, this budget feature on your Mint Dashboard was wildly off the mark. At the beginning of the month, some categories would go all apeshit and display over-budget amounts by hundreds of dollars. If you click on the category, it would display the correct amounts in the Transactions list for the month which obviously was much lower.

Mint Budget Problem

This was misleading and I pointed it out to Mint Customer Service via email and even posted it on their help forums. Mint even acknowledged the problem and promised me that their engineers are working hard to resolve the problem as soon as possible. Also, I wasn’t the only one with the problem. So far in spite of being a major issue, Mint hadn’t yet resolved the issue when one of the users who had a similar problem posted a possible solution.

Mint Budget Problem Resolution

He simply went to the Planning tab and clicked on the Edit Details of the category that was displaying the wrong amounts and unchecked the ‘Make this budget roll over’ option. The issue resolved immediately. So my question is, does Mint or its engineers know that the fix is so simple and that the roll over option is more confusing than helpful? Perhaps the explanation is so simple that the Mint engineers missed the obvious. Or are they simply fixing the basic problem? Mint could have easily pointed out that the rollover budgets are causing the anomaly after which 90% of the users with the problem would have been satisfied. But does Mint know it was that easy?

How to track live visitors to your blog using Who’s Amung Us widget

Let me introduce you to Who’s Amung Us – Sidebar Widget of the Day. Or rather, I should say time-consuming (wasting?) and useless sidebar widget of the day. Well, Of course I kid. I am a known stats whore i.e. love numbers and tracking visitors (new and returning) on this blog. No wonder, this blog’s stats are powered by Mint, Reinvigorate, and Google Analytics. Mint is my primary stats tracker and I check it several times a day; probably more than I should. So much so that I considered it worthwhile spending $30 for a site license (trust me, it is worth it.)

web trackerAnyway, I found another stats widget and promptly added it to my sidebar. You can see it if you scroll all the way down or on your left. It tracks and displays the number of visitors that are on your site right now. It tracked visitors that were on my blog until eight minutes ago. If you click on the button, it will show you the pages that the visitors are viewing ranked according to recency. The numbers may vary depending upon when you are reading this (feed readers, you may have to click through to the blog to see it in action.) See screenshot below:

As you see, Sanjaya Malakar brings quite a lot of traffic to this blog these days. No wonder I like write about him ;) You can also see the popular pages on your blog in real time:

The larger text is the more popular pages. The first two links are basically the same pages but one is without the forward slash (/). Reminds me to fix that in the template.

Where can you get it? Who’s Amung Us is developed by Bart Bobrowski, Tom McNulty, and Christopher Shannon. If you go to the homepage (note the clever use of the dot us domain extension, like del.icio.us) it randomly generates a code that you can place on your blog (sidebar or footer is the ideal place.) Simple, right? And yup, they know, it should be ‘among’…hey, in that case, it should be Flicker, right? For compulsive obsessive people (hey, they are talking about me), they have a Firefox addon that lets you check the stats without visiting your site.

It can be pretty addictive to see people wandering into your blog. It is almost voyeuristic except it is your space. I can’t imagine how it must be for high traffic sites. Would it be like a continually streaming river of visitors just scrolling down your page?

Update: This blog no longer hosts the widget.

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