by Essentials on July 22, 2010

in Random

One of the things we’re working on in this whole “make our lives better” thing is getting our finances in order.

As we’re starting to look at where the balance between money and happiness ends up, we’re trying to get our financial lives sorted out. Money may not buy happiness, but having debt doesn’t help, so we’re working on a trifecta of slashing our debt (which we’ve been working on for a few years), getting a handle on where we spend our money, and figuring out where we can cut/budget better.

A key tool that we’ve been using for those last two has been I know, I know, we’re probably the last people on the planet to get on board with Mint, but what can I say? I’m not always an early adopter.

On the off chance you haven’t heard of Mint, it’s an online money management tool that connects with your different financial accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, etc.) to put everything in one place. From there, you can categorize your spending, set budgets, make plans for different financial goals, and more.

We originally started looking into Mint when we were doing our taxes and realized we needed an easier way to look through old expenses to determine what were business expenses for N.C. We’ve tried things like Quickbooks, and Quicken, and well, maybe I’m financially stupid, but I could never figure them out. Mint, though, has been really easy to figure out. You can do things like set a specific store to automatically go into a business category (the art store will never be a non-business expense, for example).

My big hangup with Mint in the beginning was..well, connecting all my financial information online into one location. Which, when I stop and think about it is silly in one way because that stuff is all online ANYWAY. But my fears were 1)what is a 3rd party going to do with this? 2)what if it’s a scam and 3)what if it gets hacked?

Well, so far, 1 & 2 have been proven to be fine. I’m not getting more spam, or more offers since joining Mint. It’s been endorsed by what feels like a million and three places (Money, NYT, PCMag to name a few) and it has all the secure web stuff (VeriSign, Truste, McAffee). Now, #3 is still a concern, but honestly? That’s a concern with any of my online financial institutions, so I’ve moved on.

Here are my favorite parts of Mint:

  1. The ability to look at ALL my finances in one place (credit cards, checking, savings, etc)
  2. The ability to categorize all expenses easily, and then the easy visuals to show where  you’re spending your money. Most things are already categorized, and I’d say for us that probably about 85% of them are categorized correctly. The ones that aren’t tend to be when we’ve bought something in a big shopping center that has multiple merchants that use the same location–but it takes almost no time to correct the categories.
  3. The notifications. You can set up email notifications for things like low balance, big purchases (you set the $ threshold), bank fees, etc. It wasn’t until we started getting the Mint notifications that I even knew that my bank was charging me some of the monthly fees they are.
  4. The goals feature is pretty cool, and a useful tool especially if you’re not sure where to start with things like getting out of debt, or buying a house, or going on a vacation.

All in all, even though I’m a late adopter, I’m a big fan of this new tool. I’m hopeful it will make tax time easier, but even if not, it’s given us such a clearer picture of where and how we spend our money that I can’t see doing without it.

Lisa July 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

I’ve stayed away from Mint for that reason #3. Well, and I guess a little bit of #1 too. It might be fine, I’ve just never taken the time to look into it because it makes me uneasy. There’s something about having ALL my financial info in one free service that makes me really nervous.

Amanda (Mama Lungo) August 4, 2010 at 4:15 am

Hubby has been using Mint for awhile now and he set up the household budget on it last fall and I have to say I love it. I am terrible with money and budget stuff but Mint makes it manageable for even those challenged folks like me!

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