I have always been one to use online banking, as long as it has been available. I don’t think I have ever balanced a paper checkbook. I am now thirty, and as long as I’ve had checking accounts I’ve used things like Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Money, Quicken, and a host of other tools to keep track of my finances.
The problem for me was that each of these financial tracking tools required manual entry by me, from my various online banking sites. My bank, my credit cards, my auto loan, my mortgage and more! It was tedious to gather and update all of this information and input it to my one centralized location. So tedious, that I would often not do it, simply doing quarterly updates, if that.
Then I discovered http://www.mint.com , which is a free service provided by TurboTax. I’ve used TurboTax for the past eight years, enjoying the ease which came in filing my taxes through them. Two years ago I saw an ad for their financial tracking service, called Mint, and last year I saw the same ad after submitting my taxes, and this time I decided to check it out.
When you first create an account with Mint, they ask you to do something that was a little unnerving for me: provide your username and password for each of your online banking services. At first, I hesitated and almost didn’t sign up. But then I reasoned, if I’ve used TurboTax for eight years and I’ve trusted my personal information to them, I can have a degree of security knowing that the same people are running Mint.
After creating my account, providing my usernames and passwords, a most amazing thing happened! Mint pulled the transactions from all of my various online banking sites, and, for the first time ever, I got a true picture of what my overall financial situation looks like! Instead of seeing my bank account as a stand-alone entity, it was simply one cog in my financial machine.
For example, when I make a purchase on my credit card, it shows a transaction against my total monthly purchases, and then when I make a payment from my checking account to my credit card, it shows as a transfer, not a withdrawal, because it debits from my checking account and credits to my credit account.
I can’t tell you how impressive this is as an overall picture of my financial status. The same goes with payments to my auto loan or mortgage. Or if I pay my bills with my debit card or credit card, it still tracks the same as a purchase against my total monthly budget.
That brings me to the next greatest feature of Mint. Making a monthly in Mint is easy and incredibly helpful! I started by estimating what I spent, though I didn’t really have an accurate picture. I must say, I was amazed at how much money I spent in some areas of my budget. This tool has totally altered my awareness of how my family spends money each month and where our areas of greatest opportunity are. We made some great changes over the first few months of using Mint, and we’re now saving a few hundred dollars over what we were spending before!
There are other great features of Mint. When you plan your budgets, Mint can email and/or text message you when you’ve exceeded a budget in any category. You can also set financial goals, including how much you want to save by a certain date and Mint will tell you how much you need to save each month.
If you’re still reading this review, I imagine you’ve asked yourself by now, “Ok, it does great stuff and it’s free–what’s the catch?” It’s true, nothing is truly free in this life, but the trade-off for Mint is not that oppressive. When you log in, there are banner ads that show at the very top of the page. They offer financial services, like credit cards, mortgage brokers, investment brokerages, etc. Mint makes money by being paid a commission from these companies when you click on one of the ads and sign up for the service. And if you never click on an ad, then you never pay anything for Mint! It’s that easy.
So, if you want a financial tracking tool that will bring all of your finances into one centralized platform, giving you an ideal overall picture of your financial health, check out http://www.mint.com .