The Mint app is an extension of the equally exceptional online service. Over the past three years, it has become my go-to tool for personal budgeting and finances, which was something my life desperately needed. Before I found Mint, I had all of my finances in a huge spreadsheet and I would track my spending every month by looking at my bank statements. I’d write everything I spent into the spreadsheet, dividing everything into categories as I went. It was all very cumbersome and if often took all weekend to get it organized. I figured there had to be a better way.
Then I found Mint and it solved everything.
The great thing about Mint is that it connects to your bank accounts in a read-only fashion and pulls information from your statements. It automatically, based on previous statements, figures out which category it belongs in and organizes it for you. In the rare event that Mint mis-categorizes something, you can go in and move things around yourself and adjust it as you go. It’s pretty much budgeting without having to do any of the work! I can track all of my expenses as I go and I can go back into previous months if I forgot to do something. Ultimately, Mint tells me “You’ve spent this much, here is how much you have left.” It took my all of two seconds to decide I was sold on this.
The app is essentially a stripped-down version of the web service. The web version offers more (like letting you track your net worth and its growth, your average income over time, etc), but the goal of the app is little different: it helps you focus solely on your month. One of the great (and, on occasion, not so great) things about the app is that you can see the activity of whoever shares your account with you. I can open Mint and see that my wife has just bought lunch and I can call her and ask how the sushi is! Of course, she’ll ask if I’m spying on her and I’ll proudly say “Yes I am! Via Mint!” You can also get separate accounts if you think this will wreck your marriage.
The app will keep a running tally of all of your accounts, which is great for me. On the fly, from one place, I can see how much is in my Bank of America account, how much is in my Chase account, my credit card balance, how much of my student loan debt remains and so forth. You can also customize what is there, like including an off-the-record personal loan. It’s a complete financial overview. With the specific categorization of everything I spend, I can look back and see how much I’ve spent on food during the course of the year. I can see how much I spent on gifts, how much I spent on home improvement and so on. No more estimates: I’ll know exactly where all of my money went. When you track how much you eat out every month, you start to realize just how much of your money should be going toward a new game or a house instead of fast food!
Mint also keeps you keenly aware of when you are over budget. My anniversary month definitely saw me go over my food budget
For many people, their finances are a “what I don’t know can’t hurt me!” type situation, but I keep telling my friends who want to be better with their money the same thing: start tracking your finances. Knowing is half the battle and with Mint, half of the battle is already done for you. All you have to do is sign up, link your accounts and watch as the app does all of your tracking for you. The best thing about Mint is that you don’t have to be a super financial genius for it to work: it is your super financial genius.