Mint is listed on my best money management software list for good reason. This review aims to give you a detailed understanding of why Mint is the money management software of choice for a lot of people today. Overall it’s know for it’s user friendliness and its unique ability to bring all your financial information into one place.
I recently signed up for a free account and was amazed at how easy Mint makes it to integrate and display your checking, credit card spending, loans, investments and property information (cars and house) all within the online application. It took me less than 5 minutes to set up my accounts. You can see all your balances for each account on the overview page which serves as your personal finance dashboard.
Mint can be set up to work with any financial institution that’s accessible on the web. The core functionality includes auto categorization (or manual if you prefer) of all your financial transactions, budgeting, goal setting and tracking, investments, trending or reporting, saving tips, bill alerts, and iPhone, iPad and Android apps to manage your money on the go.
So, let’s take a look at each of these areas in a little more detail so you can understand more about how they work and why people like to use Mint as their personal money management software.
After you add you a financial institution, such as your checking account, Mint automatically reads all of your spending or deposit transactions from the account and displays them within the Transactions section of the software. As you select each transaction, you can see the spending history and how much you’ve spent as compared to the US average.
Mint has a list of categories that auto assign to each of your transactions. These categories are already available so you don’t have to create them yourself. You can change category assignments, rename them, create your own or use subcategories too. Again, you can let Mint auto assign these categories or you can manually assign them yourself.
Mint also provides transaction tag functionality. For example, you could create a Christmas Spending tag to separate spending for holiday shopping. Tags help you group transactions together that might span across multiple categories.
Finally, an important feature of spending management is having the ability to split transactions. For example, you might want a Target store transaction split between Food, Household and Toiletry categories to better manage your spending across these areas. This can be accomplished with Mint under the transaction detail and is quite easy to do.
Mint provides the ability to create a budget with your spending categories. To create a budget you assign a budgeted amount to each category you want to include in your overall spending plan. For example, you can set a budget for an individual category such as Groceries. Mint looks at the national average for grocery spending. It will recommend a budgeted amount and start it over at the beginning of each month.
It will also roll a balance over the next month, so it’s included in your budgeted amount. Rolling a balance forward is important in case you have over spent, or still have money remaining in the budget that can be applied to next month’s spending. This sort of serves the same purpose as envelope budgeting.
A budget can be set up as monthly, one-time or even every few months. Once you’ve set up your budget you can easily see how much money you have left in your spending category to help you make better spending decisions.
Mint provides a goal setting feature that helps you get motivated about setting goals for your money. I like this feature because I think goal setting is important. My wife and I try to do this at the beginning of each year. For example, we talk specifically about how much we want to save for our emergency account or what we need to save for a family vacation.
To set up a goal, simply choose from a list of recommended goals such as get out of debt, save for emergencies, buy a car, buy a home and many more. You can also create custom goals that may be more specific to your situation.
Once you determine your goal, Mint’s goal calculator helps you determine how much you need to save. You can set your goal with an end date or a monthly amount and finally, link your goal to an account to stay on top of it and apply payments towards it each month. For example, if you set up a debt goal Mint makes recommendations on how to pay off that debt sooner buy showing you balance transfer and debt consolidation options.
Trends is another exciting feature of Mint that allows you to look at your spending habits graphically over time. For example, you can look at your spending via a pie chart and can quickly see for which category your spending the most money in each month. You can click on each section of a graph or chart and drill down into the category, merchant or spending tag to learn more about your habits. You can also look at your spending across time and compare it by month to other areas of the United States.
Using the trends feature is particularly helpful to manage bad habits or to more proactively manage your money. It’s also a great tool to help you budget accurately. For example, health care expenses can vary from year to year. Using trends may help you budget a reasonable amount based on historical spending in this area. In my opinion, the Trends functionality provides all the reporting and analysis needs you’d ever need to manage your money.
Investment tracking differentiates Mint from other popular products like Mvelopes Personal and YNAB. You’ll find the Investments component of Mint definitely helps Mint live up to providing all your financial information in one place. You can view investment performance, value, allocation and perform comparisons (with the S&P 500, etc.) across time.
Mint also provides a number of recommendations for services which can help you save money such as using a lower cost broker. I particularly like how Mint has integrated investment management into their money management software because investing and saving for retirement is an important component of personal finance. Not many home money management software products provide this feature.
Mint has a robust alerts capability which allows you to get weekly updates, bills due and over 20 other types of custom alerts. Here are a few examples: unusual spending (spending is above average for any category), over budget (you exceed one of your spending category budgets), bill reminders, low balance, large purchases (any purchases greater than a certain amount), goal notifications (goal milestones are met) and more. All of these alerts can be sent to you via email and are available on your mobile device. Alerts, if used correctly, are a great way to let the software help you stay on top of your personal money management.
Mint is Free, so How Does Mint Make Money?
Mint provides their online services for free which is great considering all the features available. However, Mint is a business (owned by Intuit) so they do have to make money. How do they do this by offering free online software?
Mint makes money if you save money. Mint makes recommendations for how you can save more money as you use the application. As you visit various areas of the software, Mint provides recommended products and ranks them in order of the best savings first. In other words, the software finds a savings opportunity for you based on your account information and habits.
In taking this approach (ranking best options), Mint claims they are taking an unbiased in regards to which products they offer. You don’t have to choose any, or you can pick the ones you like and create an account directly from Mint. I can only assume this is accurate as long as their ranking calculation doesn’t rank based on their commissions.
Some people might think this is intrusive, or that it’s annoying to have product suggestions within your personal money management software. However, based on my review of the software, I didn’t find any of the product offerings overly annoying and they didn’t get in the way of me managing my money or looking at my accounts.
Overall, I think Mint is providing a fair service to people in that the product is free and the product offerings are based on how much money you can save. It’s really a win – win for everyone. Some of the areas Mint focuses on for saving money include credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, brokerages and insurance.
A mobile app should make it easy to manage your money on the go and Mint does this very well. You can get a mobile version of Mint for the iPhone, iPad and Android phone. All of the apps are very well designed and provide many of the core features of the web based software. The iPhone app was included in Time Magazines top 50 apps.
If you’re a little bit hesitant about having your finances accessible via a mobile device, you can set up a 4 digit security code that must be entered before you can access the app. Doing so protects your privacy in case you lose your phone.
How secure is Mint.com? Mint.com security uses the same technology banks use. You can’t move money in-between accounts within Mint as the software only reads your accounts. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about anyone compromising your financial accounts if they were to log on with your computer. With the alert feature, you can also stay on top of your finances better and be alerted to activity across any of your accounts that is out of the norm. If you’re still concerned with security, I recommend ready the Mint Security FAQ for more information.
What Do I Like the Most About Mint?
Mint does an amazing job at providing a user friendly, graphical and intuitive user interface for the end user. It’s easy to set up and get started in a few minutes as long as you know your online account information for your financial institutions. The alerts are a robust and great feature to help you stay on top of your spending and let you know how you’re doing against your budget. The software does a nice job of helping you look at spending trends and learning from past spending habits. I like how Mint tries to help you save money with their product offerings that aren’t intrusive. Finally, Mints mobile apps are some of the best in terms of functionality and design. In today’s world, you need to be able to perform money management from an iPhone or other mobile device. Mint has you covered.
What Do I Dislike the Most About Mint?
Mint still doesn’t let you proactively plan your spending as does a traditional envelope budgeting method like Mvelopes Personal. With Mint, you’re looking at your spending after the fact versus forward thinking and planning. I’m not sure I like the auto assignment of transactions very well either. There may be a way to turn this off, but it does seem like many of my transactions were incorrectly assigned, or would need some adjustment on my part based on how I like to categorize spending. At the same time, I think this experience may improve the more you use the product and get used to the functionality. Certainly, Mint is about saving you time and money, so there is a trade off.
Overall, I do recommend Mint personal finance software. After all, it’s FREE, you can save money and it amazingly helps you see all your financial information in one place!
Do you use Mint? If so let us know your thoughts in the comments.