The use of personal finance tools for managing, budgeting, and controlling where your money is going is extremely helpful for anyone just trying to get a grasp on their finances. But with many tools and calculators, you’ll need to bounce from one program to another and assemble your own financial profile. This can become difficult, confusing, and make it easy to forget about important due dates, expenses, or loans.
But with Mint.com, a free financial service that can be used online or through an app, you can view everything right into one easy-to-view screen.
What Is Mint?
Mint allows users to view an overall perspective of their expenses, debts, loans, credit cards, bank accounts, and more. Rather than needing to log into a million different programs to see what you owe to who or how much you have in each account, Mint takes all your information and compiles it into one dashboard.
To create a Mint account, all you need to do is sign up for a free profile. The program will prompt you to enter the details of your checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and loans. This information allows Mint to develop a better understanding of your financial situation.
Next, you will be asked to outline your budget. Mint has a variety of categories that you can choose from, so you can make your budget as unique as you’d like. If you want to keep things simple, such as “house expenses,” “car expenses,” “credit cards,” and “loans,” you’re free to do that. If you want to break down your budget even further to tell what each bill is or where you’re spending your grocery money, you can do that as well.
Each time you log in Mint, the software will pull new transactions, purchases, and payments to update your information. For all purchases on your credit cards or debit cards, Mint will categorize them into their respective budgets. This means that there is no additional work for you when using Mint.
How to Make the Most of Your Mint Account
Mint is a completely customizable tool. Rather than trying to force your unique financial situation into what the platform’s idea of what a budget is, you’re free to create a system that works for you.
If you want to make the most of your experience with Mint, here are some features you will want to take advantage of:
Budgeting: As the main purpose of Mint’s software, budgeting is the star player. Using a simple red, yellow, or green coding, you can get a quick glimpse of if you’re on track with your budget or if you need to make adjustments. Red lets you know that you have either met your budget or gone over, yellow warns that you are getting close, and green tells you that you are free to spend.
Goal Creation: Mint also gives you the opportunity to create and track your financial goals. If you’re looking to create an emergency fund or save up for a special item like a house or a car, you can use Mint to track your goal. If you have a deadline for the goal, Mint can tell you how much you need to save each month to reach that goal. If you can only save a certain amount each month, Mint can let you know how many months you’ll need to save until your goal has been reached.
Credit Score Monitoring: Mint can also allow you to track your credit score throughout making purchases, payments, and opening new lines of credit. Having this number where you can clearly view it can help you to stay on track financially, ensure your credit isn’t slipping, and make changes before it gets too low.
The Mint App: You don’t need to be on a desktop or laptop to use Mint. There's an awesome app that lets you access your account from anywhere. You can see your budget, access recent transactions, categorize purchases and more.
Weekly Email Summaries: Each week, you’ll receive an email from Mint letting you know how your past week was financially. If you’re serious about staying on track with your budgets and managements, these weekly emails can help you stay focused and reminded of your goals and due dates. Breaking your budget down by week can also let you see if you need to make major changes in the weeks ahead in order to stay on track for the month.
As with anything else, a good thing can’t be without a few drawbacks. In Mint’s case, the list of negatives is very small. First, Mint can’t track how you’re spending cash. While you have the ability to go into the program and add your cash transactions to your budgets, you’ll need to input those by hand.
The second and last negative we have for Mint is that it sometimes struggles with its categories. It picks up the wrong clues, puts something in the wrong place, and suddenly Mint has your rent check categorized as T.G.I Friday’s. While this can be annoying when it happens, it is an easy fix to get the purchase back where it should go.
Mint is on top of the personal finance tool industry for a reason. As something that is easy to use, completely customizable, and totally free, it doesn’t matter if you’re new to managing your own money or you’re about to enter your retirement. There is something in the program for everyone.
For anyone new to controlling money, it can be confusing and stressful. With a powerful budgeting and money management tool, like Mint, you can be smart about your money and stay on track for a successful financial future.
Mint Review Summary
Mint is by far the top free money management/budgeting tool available. It has an easy to use interface, all the features you need to get your money under control and a great mobile app. Aside from a couple minor setbacks like mis-categorizing transactions occasionally, we can't say too many bad things about Mint.