Copy of Kelsa's Critique 3

By now you may have heard of Mint.com – a website that pulls all your financial accounts into one place, assists in categorizing the expenses, and helps you to create a budget. It also helps you see the whole picture of your spending – instead of seeing how much you spent at restaurants on your credit card only, you can see the total from all your debit and credit cards.

Here are a few images from the website.

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Here are some pros & cons of the Mint.com website.

Pros:
1. It’s FREE!
2. Consolidates all income and expense activity from various sources – bank accounts, credit cards, investments, etc.
3. Automatically downloads data from your accounts so you’re always seeing the most up to date information.
4. Allows you to set alerts –

A) Due date for a bill is fast approaching
B) You’re hitting your preset budget for eating out or another category
C) Your checking account balance is getting low
D) Large transaction in your account (you determine the amount that’s important to you)
E) You are exceeding a certain % of credit balance versus credit limit

5. Provides pretty visuals  – bar charts, pie charts, etc.
6. Easily accessible from everywhere with user-friendly mobile apps.

Cons:
1. Most reviews will say it’s easy to set up and to some extent I agree. However, setting rules for categories, which alerts you want or don’t want, making sure it’s accessing your accounts correctly, and figuring out the little quirks takes time. I usually recommend setting it up when you have a solid hour to sort through it all right at the beginning.
2. While Mint.com shows all your transactions, it does not reconcile anything.
3. “Your bank information requires attention.” Syncing with some accounts is easy-peasy while others seem to fail over and over again. This appears to be a common issue among users.
4. No reports! Oh how I wish you could print summaries or certain activity from Mint.com. Your best bet is to take a screen shot then print that picture- not exactly ideal.
5. No specific debt payoff strategy offered as part of the service.
6. For those uncomfortable with automation, Mint.com can be intimidating.
7. “Ways to Save” page is driven by paid advertisers.

So should you or shouldn’t you use it?

Mint.com, like most financial software options, is helpful in tracking past spending. While that’s valuable, budgeting is all about looking ahead with your money, not behind you. If you update Mint.com once a month and you see that you’re over budget on eating out, what can you do about it? You can’t unspend the money. Tracking your spending offers limited value, it’s good for helping us to gain awareness, but that’s it.

Here’s what I think it’s good for –

If you’re eager to get control of your finances and you’re not sure where to start, one of the best things you can do is gain awareness of how much you’re currently spending. How can you set a budget or a target in a given category without a realistic idea of what’s currently happening? If you take a guess and tell yourself you’ll spend $100 per month on eating out, when you’ve currently been spending $400 per month, you may have just set yourself up for failure.

That’s where Mint.com comes in.

You could begin tracking all your spending with a small note pad and pen OR you could set up a mint.com account and categorize the last 3 months of spending. Then, use the “Trends” tab to see your totals in any category you’re not sure about. Clueless about how much you spend on Groceries? Eating out? Coffee shops? Now you have a 3-month average. NOW you can focus on a realistic budget going forward.

Once you have your starting point, you can create a budget, put some challenges in place for yourself and focus on looking ahead with your money.

Need help?

For help setting up your Mint.com account and accomplishing the above step, drop me an email or call the office! OR if you’ve been able to tackle Mint.com on your own and now you want help making decisions with the newfound information, that’s even better!