I use Mint.com, the free online-based personal finance software, and their iPhone app to keep track of all of our financial accounts. This includes the checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and other loans, the mortgage, and all of our investment accounts.
I check the app once a week or so to see how my accounts are doing, and to make sure I don’t need to move any money around. I also get alerts when I have a low balance or when I’ve spent an unexpected amount in a category. Although Mint can do a heck of a lot more, this is mainly what I use it for: seeing the big picture of our money situation. Here’s more about Mint…
The Overview – See All Your Accounts at Once
This is where the magic happens. When you sign up with Mint, you get to add your whole financial picture to one big dashboard. No more logging into multiple accounts and creating spreadsheets. Mint brings that to you with their overview page. At the bottom of this page you are even presented with your net worth. A nice number to track over time.
Other Mint.com Features
Transactions – Of course, you can drill down into each of your transactions and see how much you were charged, the date, and the description. Mint will automatically assign an income or expense category. The program is pretty good about getting this categorization right. But there are some items you may need to manually correct.
Budgets – Mint allows you to set monthly budgets for your spending categories. In fact, even if you don’t set a budget, it will assign a default budget to each category. When you breach those budget numbers, your overview page will show alerts detailing where you are over. Again, I really don’t use the budget feature. But it’s well worth a look if you are trying to crack down on spending.
Goals – This is a brand new feature at Mint. I really like what they’ve done here. One of the first steps to any solid savings plan is having a few goals in mind. Why manage your money if you’re not going to do something with it right? What Mint does, in a fun and intuitive way, is to help you create goals for savings or debt reduction. You start by selecting your goal, follow their prompts in estimating your needs and how long it will take. If it’s a savings goal, you let them know which of your accounts you’ll be using to save for the goal. They track the account and keep up with your progress. Likewise with a debt reduction goal, they track the debt account and see how you are performing each month.
Trends – This is where your graphs and charts are. The categories you assign to your spending drives this cool feature. Fun to look at and really will give you and idea of your habits and areas for improvements.
Investments – This is basically a drill down into your investment accounts. With online access to your accounts, Mint is able to determine which funds you are invested in. They display all sorts of information including your performance, value, allocation, and comparisons to the market (very cool).
Ways to Save – One of the unique features of Mint is their suggestion tool under the Ways to Save tab. This is essentially how Mint makes a bit of their money. The refer you to products that will give you a better savings rate, lower fees, or lower interest rates on debt.
The Mint iPhone App
Like I mentioned above I also have the Mint iPhone app which basically just taps into the online tool. You can’t add accounts from here, but you can see an overview of your accounts and drill down into details. I use this app 99% of the time vs. going to the .com site.
Mint does gain access to your login credentials. So there is the potential for exposure of this information. However, Mint contends they have bank-level security. So if you trust the Bank of Americas and the INGs of the world, you probably can trust Mint. Here’s more about their security.
Note: An alternative to Mint would be to create this with a manual spreadsheet and update it yourself by logging into your accounts periodically. Lucky for you I’ve created such a spreadsheet.
Time to get started tracking your accounts with Mint. Sign up for free and add your accounts to see your net worth.