After you’ve linked your accounts to BrightDime, here’s your next best steps:
1.Categorization of transactions. Start on the budget page, select a month and scroll down to the all transactions tab. BrightDime pulls in several months of historical data along with data from the current month and categorizes each income and expense transaction based on what we know about the vendor. Check to see that you agree with the category listed (if not, you can change it with the drop down menu). Then look for all items labeled uncategorized and pick an appropriate category for each. These are items we can’t even guess at – like a check or cash withdrawal from an ATM. Try to review and tweak all of the monthly spending data you see so that your spending averages are accurate. After that, the system will begin to learn and remember your categories (if you’re consistent!) when it loads future data.
2. Set a budget. On the budget page, there are two views you can toggle back and forth between. Average: This is a high level budget BrightDime has created for you using an average of your monthly income and expenses that you just categorized. Budget: This is where you can create, monitor, and tweak your own personal budget. To get started, select Edit Income. What is your expected monthly income? This should be your monthly take home pay plus any other income you receive from other sources on a regular basis. Next, select Edit Budget. This will bring up a list of budget categories with your current spending on the left side and your monthly average on the right. You can set your budget in each category by typing directly in the field under “Budget”. Each category can be expanded, or drilled down into sub-categories by clicking on the category name. For example “Leisure” includes sub-categories for “Travel” and “Entertainment.” You can set your budget at the high level categories or the drilled down more specific categories. Once you have input your budget, select done.
There are some common issues we see with setting up the budget:
– Account Transfers. If you’re like most people you pay for things with your credit card and then pay off your credit card from your checking account. When you have both accounts connected to BrightDime, the payment from checking to your credit card may mistakenly show up in your budget as income (usually categorized as a “miscellaneous inflow”) in your credit card account and as spending in your checking account. Counting both the payments made with the credit card AND the payment from the checking account to the credit card company would be double counting your spending. You can fix this by going to the Budget page, scrolling down and selecting the All Transactions tab. Find the payments (there should be two, the payment out from checking and payment coming in to the credit card) click on them and change the category to “Account Transfer.” Account Transfer is the category for moving money between accounts – it isn’t counted towards Spending or Income and doesn’t appear in your Budget. You’ll only see transactions categorized as Account Transfers on the “All Transactions” tab, grayed out to indicate that they are “invisible” to spending and budgeting. This is also applicable for all types of loans (auto, mortgage, student, etc) where both the loan account and checking account are connected to BrightDime, and the checking account is used to make the payment. For accounts like car loans you can check “exclude account from spending” to make any transactions in this account “invisible” to your spending and budgeting analysis. The payments on the loans themselves would still be captured correctly from the checking account or savings account you pay from.
– What category should my transaction be? It’s really up to you. If you think of your Netflix bill as a monthly bill, it could go into “Bill/Utilities” under “Household”. Other people think it fits better under “Entertainment” or even “Online Services.” We want your budget to match your mental picture of how you think about your monthly spending.
3. Now that you’ve set a budget, set goals. BrightDime has created some overall, longer term goals for you based on the data imported and the questions you answered. On the Goals page, you can Add Savings Goal on the right, start with an amount to save and a timeframe, then BrightDime will calculate the monthly amount / savings goal for you. You can track your progress on this page. If you want to remove or edit a goal, just open it up and select that option in the bottom left corner.
4. Visit the library. Review articles and webinars on many financial topics. They range from explaining specific financial products like an HSA you may have at work, to how to navigate big life events like buying your first home.
5. Review reports. You can review your balance sheet, net worth (all the things you own minus all the things you owe) and detailed information on any investments you have linked including overall allocation and performance.