Tools: Personal finance: Mint.com


I discovered Mint about two years ago, and it has made my life so much easier. The basic premise of the site is aggregation of your accounts. You enter your online login information for your banking, loans, or other financial accounts, and then Mint combines them all into one easy to use tool. This is not a paid endorsement, I didn’t get any freebies (other than the use of their site, which is always free) – it just has worked wonders for me.

There are a few areas where Mint is very helpful. I find numbers 4 and 5 below to be the most helpful.

1: Categorizing your spending.
Mint automatically categorizes all transactions in your transaction history into different categories. For example, a credit card charge at (insert grocery store name here) will automatically be categorized as groceries, or food and dining. A trip to Shell will be categorized as gas. When these are categorized, you can view your expenses as part of a whole – do you spend 1% or 10% of your money on gas?

2: Tracking your spending over time.
Mint also allows you to compare your spending from month to month or year to year. You can see where your expenses have changed.

3: Compare your spending to others.
By anonymizing your data and others on the site, you can compare your spending habits to other people in your city, region, or nation-wide. If you see that you’re spending $500 more per year on auto insurance than the average person, you can take action to try to find cheaper rates.

4: Simple, easy budgeting.
The best feature on Mint is the budget tool. Here is where you make keeping track of your spending nearly automatic and incredibly easy. Enter your budgeted amounts into Mint’s categories (groceries, gas, insurance, etc) and then relax.

That categorizing aspect I mentioned above? It comes into play here. When you buy groceries, it will automatically deduct that amount from your budgeted amount. You can see how much you have left, in relation to how much time is left in the month. You also have the option to roll over budgets from month to month, so if you spend $400 out of $500 one month, you get an extra $100 to spend the next. Or, conversely, if you overspend one month, it can deduct it from the next month’s budget.

5: Alerts
The last really helpful feature Mint offers is the ability to set alerts. You can have these alerts sent in an email or as a text message. You can set alerts to tell you when you have a low balance, when you exceed your budget, when bills are due, or a whole host of other important things. That way, if you exceed your ‘shopping’ budget for the month, you can get an email to remind yourself not to spend anymore until the next month.

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