This post was featured at The Financial Blogger and A Pot of Gold.
The first financial advice usually given when you want to better control your money is 'track everything you spend.' There are tips for writing it down, spreadsheets, organizing receipts, software programs, etc.
What do these methods all have in common? They are a major pain! They are tedious! They can be confusing and unappealing! Are these attributes conducive to forming a habit? No.
For those reasons, I have never been a fan of personally tracking every single thing you spend...until now. Some people with my same feelings and observations, and a lot of tech know-how, came up with a better way. It's called Mint, at mint.com. (I would like to point out here that I am not getting paid to write about this site. I genuinely think it's great and want to review it so others can get their mitts on this amazing service.) Now, where were we?
Mint is truly 'refreshing,' as they say on the site, making money management easy, fast, and--dare I say it?--fun. It's a web-based application for keeping up with your finances, making it easy to access from anywhere you have the Internet, and automatically up-to-date on all transactions (you don't have to update it yourself, hooray!). It has oodles of great features:
Free: I wouldn't have even considered it if it were otherwise.
Fast: I signed up and had a full breakdown of my expenses, my balances, where I spent where, and more in less than 3 minutes. This alone is a marvel. Beyond that, you merely log in with your email address, and in less than 30 seconds you can check your financial health. When it's that quick, you can easily check it every day...a great habit that will improve your finances immensely.
Easy: All I had to know was my email address, my zip code, and my account numbers and passwords for my bank(s) and credit cards. I didn't have to search around the site to figure things out either; it's easier than email.
Safe: The site is big on security and privacy, using the latest technology available, and not asking for any personal information. Their site interfaces directly with the service provider your bank or credit card company use, so those at Mint don't even see your information. You can read more about their security here.
All-knowing: Well, not really, but it puts your information together in such a way that you learn more about your finances than you thought possible in such a short amount of time. It tells you:
- how much you have in each account.
- how much debt you have and where it is.
- where you spent everything you spent by check, debit or credit card (obviously, it can't track where you spend cash, but it can tell you when and where you received cash).
- when big transactions have gone through, and when checks have cleared.
- if something out of the ordinary has happened in any of your accounts.
- how much you spent in different categories (for example: how much you spent last month on groceries, or how much your utilities cost for the past three months).
- how your spending compares to others in your area, state, and the nation.
- what your budget might look like (yes! It creates a budget for you!).
- and oh so much more!
Truly, Mint is a brilliant site. It has a couple of drawbacks, but really only a couple. Currently, it cannot link to investment or loan accounts, but I believe that service is forthcoming. Also, the site comes up with customized ways to save money, but these usually resemble sales pitches from financial institutions. In its defense, Mint's suggestions probably would really save you money, and the site has to make a living somehow.
For the first time, I am easily and quickly tracking my spending. It has already positively impacted our family finances. Now that you know about this site, you have no more excuses for not knowing where your money has gone. But rather than feeling like a chore, it feels great!
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