For this blog post, I’m going to write about a tool I started using regularly this year to track my finances: Mint. As a creative person I am usually not a huge fan of keeping track of numbers, particularly when it comes to my own wallet, but this application has made managing my own personal finance easy, and even recommended ways that I can save money. So here’s what I love about Mint:
- It tracks your daily spending in one place. It can be hard to track all of your spending with so many options of payment: checks, debit card, and multiple credit cards, along with your savings accounts and investments. I didn’t even mention mortgages, student loans, auto payments…the list goes on. With Mint, you can link all of your financial information together so that you can see it all in one place. You can even add cash spending in manually. Every transaction is automatically grouped in broad categories like dining, groceries, or auto & transportation. You can break it down even further to restaurant, coffee shop, etc. Categories can even be customized so you can really see where your money is going. Then you can see through pie charts and graphs how much you spend on each category per month.
- It can help with setting budgets by analyzing your spending. Seeing where your money goes every month is crucial to learning how to set a realistic budget. If you find that you’re spending over $500 dining in restaurants, that is definitely a place where you can start to cut back. It’s not realistic to put it down to $20, yes, but perhaps $400 or $300. Once you create your budget per category, Mint tracks your progress throughout the month.
- It has a built in alert system for bills , over spending and going over budget. Whenever Mint detects that you’ve spent over your budget, both the website and application if you have it installed will send you a notice that you’ve broken your budget. Mint also keeps track of when all your bill payments have to be made and sends you reminders as the date gets closer. The site also alerts you when you have a low balance to avoid fees. This is also helpful in the case of identity theft as Mint will alert you when it tracks abnormal spending in any category.
- All this is absolutely free! Both Mint.com and its mobile application are completely free. I like the mobile application for its alert system, which is described above, except to your phone instead of email. You can also quickly track cash purchases as they happen. The app gives you a quick snapshot of your account balances or how your investments are doing while you’re out and about.
Of course there are some drawbacks: often you have to visit the site to update your accounts and automatic category assignments are often inaccurate. More importantly, there are security issues with having all of your information in one place online, but note that everything is read-only, so no actual transfers of money can take place on Mint. Overall, Mint is a great, simple tool to use to manage your money.