Do you have a hard time keeping up with where your money is going? It’s hard enough to know how much you have in your checking account, not to mention how much you have it other accounts or owe on loans or credit cards. As tax season rapidly approaches, most of us realize that we need to do a better job at keeping up with our money. Problem is, most programs for managing your finances are expensive and difficult to use.
Managing your finances isn’t a hopeless quest, though. Today we’re going to look at Mint.com, a popular finance management web app that helps you keep up with all of your accounts, budgets, and more. Mint was acquired by Intuit, the company behind Quicken and TurboTax, in 2009, but it’s kept its original simple interface and no-nonsense approach to managing finances while bringing tighter integration with TurboTax. Keep reading to see if Mint is what you need to get your finances under control.
As far as web apps go, Mint has been around for a fairly long time. It was launched in 2007 as a startup, and quickly grew to help millions manage their finances. It’s easy to feel concerned about managing your sensitive financial information from a webapp, but Mint has made their service as secure as most banking sites.
All data saved on Mint is 128-bit encrypted, is regurally monitored by VeriSign and other security services, and is now backed by Intuit, one of the largest financial software companies. Plus, Mint can only see your financial data, but can’t actually move money to or from accounts. This all makes Mint a pretty safe option for managing your finances from your computer browser or mobile device.
So, let’s get started. Just head over to the Mint Signup Page and create a new account. We’d recomend using a complex, unique password with Mint, just like you would with your bank website, Paypal, or anything else highly private.
Add Your Accounts
As soon as that’s done, you can start adding your financial accounts to Mint. Select from popular banks, credit cards, and loans if you have an account with them, or enter your bank’s name in the search box to find it. Mint worked with all of my accounts, including a fairly small local bank, so odds are it’ll work with all of your accounts as well.
Do note that Mint only works with US and Canadian financial institutions.
You’ll need to enter your bank account info that you would use to login to your bank’s website. This may include your account number, online ID, password, or pin number, depending on your bank. Some financial institutions require quite a bit of information to access your account, so be prepared with any info you’d normally use to login online.
Mint is the most handy for showing a full overview of your finances, so we’d recommend adding all of your personal bank and investment accounts, credit cards and loans, and anything else financial you want to keep up with.
Once you’ve added accounts, you can edit the details about each account listed. You can enter standard fees and interest for the account so Mint can automatically calculate them, or hide accounts you don’t want listed. This is especially handy if your online banking login lets you access more accounts than you want to show in Mint with your personal finances.
Keep Up With Your Finances
Now, Mint’s all ready to help you keep up with your finances. Even if you never change any settings, you’ll start seeing useful data on your dashboard to make sense of your money. Your accounts are listed on the left, with the total net value underneath. You’ll also see alerts about your spending, recommendations for savings, and your budget.
Do note that sometimes you may have to reauthorize your financial accounts. Many banks will only let Mint stay logged in for 2 weeks or less, so you’ll need to login and reauthorize your accounts. The good thing is, this only takes a second, and you can do it right along with anything else you need to do in Mint.
Now, from the transactions page, you can see a ledger of all of your debits and credits. By default, Mint will show you a combined view with transactions across all your accounts, but you can view individual accounts as well. Everything will be automatically categorized, and usually Mint gets it right.
If you’d like to change a category, split the purchase amount between multiple categories, or anything else, just select the category and edit the details there or click Edit Details to tweak it further.
Want a quick glance at where your money is going? Click the Trends tap to see beautiful graphs showing where your money is going. You can see a graph of your net value over time, income changes, spending trends, and more. Select a category to drill down and see what you spent in that category. Mint shows how much can be done automatically with the data in your accounts, and really does a great job of making it accessible without learning difficult data manipulation tricks.
Stay on Your Budget
Beyond keeping up with all of your accounts and expenses, Mint is great for keeping on track of your budgets. Since it’s already tracking what you’re spending, it can automatically know if you’re staying in your budget and alert you when you’ve gone over. This is a great way to make sure you use your money wisely and don’t overspend.
Head over to the Budget tab to add new budgets to your account. Choose a category for the budget, then choose how long the budget is for and how much you want to allocate for this category. Once you’ve chosen a category, Mint will automatically show a graph on the right with your average and the US average spending in this category. This was one of the few areas that the chats didn’t totally work in our test; as you can see, it shows I spend an average of $11 on books per month, but the chart shows I spend around $1,500 per month on books. One could dream!
Now, Mint will automatically notify you when you go over your budget. You’ll also be able to easily see how you’re doing on your budget from the Mint dashboard or the Budgets page. You can even see at a glance when you were above or under your budget. Select the months you wish to see, and Mint will highlight them with green if you stayed in your budget or red if you went over.
If Mint does not automatically categorize your purchases, they won’t show up against your budget. Make sure to check and make sure everything’s being counted.
It’s not enough to just keep your spending in check. If you’re wanting to save for an upcoming trip, your children’s college, a new car, or anything else, you’ll need to be regularly saving money and making sure you don’t skip. Mint includes a wide variety of goal planners that help you make attainable goals based on your budgets and what you’re saving for. It’s almost like a virtual financial planner!
Saving Money With Mint
While budgeting and setting savings goals can definatley help you save money, Mint goes even farther. It’ll try to find ways for you to save on interests on your credit cares and loans, as well as find investment and savings accounts with higher interest rates than the ones you’re currently using. These can help you save even more money.
This is also how Mint remains free: they make a commission from refering users to new, lower interest credit cards and better savings accounts. Even still, the suggested accounts are often quite good deals, so it’s worth checking to see if you can find more ways to save.
Whether you’re wanting to stay on top of your actual net value better or want to see how much you’re truly spending on food each month, Mint is a valuable too that can help you get your finances under control. Mint is a great example of how plain, seemingly uninteresting data can be turned into something that’s truly useful. I don’t even use Mint to the fullest extent I could, and still find it very helpful in keeping up with my finances.
How do you usually keep up with your money? Whether you use Mint, another web app, or a program on your computer, let us know how you manage your finances in the comments!