Recently I decided it was time to take control of our finances. My husband and I are not out of control spenders. However, we needed a budget. After searching online for the best financial software to buy, I came across Mint.com.
Mint is not actually a software program that you purchase. In fact, it is a free website. When I first started using the website, I kept waiting for the catch. When would I have to pay for my use? However, it really is absolutely free to users. The site is paid for by advertisements, although the ads aren’t too annoying or obtrusive.
What does Mint do? First of all, it tracks every dollar you make and spend. You enter usernames and passwords for the financial sites you use. For me, this meant putting in all of my online banking information, in addition to information on our student loans, mortgage, investments, credit cards, and car loans. I already had most of these online accounts set up, but I did have to go to the trouble of accessing some information online that I had not accessed online before.
Mint brings all these financial online accounts together in one place. I don’t have to go to eight sites to see what bills need to be paid. I only have to go to Mint. I should add, however, that you cannot pay bills or move money on Mint. You must go the website for that individual account to do so.
The website can also sum up your debts (not pretty!) and your assets (also not pretty!) and calculate your net worth. It tracks your spending by category. You can budget in various categories. For instance, you could budget $500 a month for groceries, and Mint will notify you when you exceed your budget.
You can request emails for updates. Mint can email you when you spend over a certain amount on a purchase, when you have a large amount clear one of your accounts, when a payment is posted to your credit card, etc. Mint also allows you to set goals. If you want to save $10,000 in the next year to put toward a new car, the site will tell you how much you need to save each month and (hopefully) help to keep you accountable using its “goals” feature.
Before I used Mint, I had no idea what proportion of our money was going toward certain expenses. I can now tell you exactly what percentage of our paychecks goes to student loans, housing, food, utilities, our pets, etc. This has really helped me get a grip on our finances and to set reasonable financial goals. I am able to see where we can save money. Furthermore, seeing our spending in the way that Mint presents it helps me to control spending. Before Mint, I would spend $4 on a Starbucks drink and put that purchase out of my mind. Now I think twice because I know that I will be confronted with that purchase on Mint. It helps to keep me accountable.
Mint has also helped my husband and I see eye to eye when it comes to money. We’ve never really fought about money. I’ve just taken care of our finances, and my husband has trusted me. Now we can sit down together and look at our information on Mint. We can review the money we’ve spent and how much we have left in categories for our monthly budget. Because all of our information is in one place, it’s easier for us to make decisions.
In summary, I highly recommend checking out Mint. It’s been one of the best steps we’ve taken in the process of stepping up our financial management. Although we are a career-focused couple with no children (except the four-legged kind), I can see the value of Mint for families with children, individuals and couples preparing for retirement, and older adults living on a fixed income. This is a tool that certainly would be helpful for people at all stages of the lifespan.