it’s freaky sometimes how the posting stars align. this weekend i was going through an old all you, and i ripped out an article about a free budgeting website called mint.com. then of course there was yesterday’s meltdown about how out of control my spending has been lately. then this morning, i read an article on mashable about how mint.com is now offering expanded services. perhaps the universe is trying to tell me that it’s time to go for a minty test drive?
i decided to screw the research portion of the evening, and go straight to the sign up phase. oh, did i mention that it’s free? it actually felt really bad at first, entering in all my account numbers and passwords. i am aware that mint is a highly respected and secure site, but it’s still a little scary to think how much damage someone could do with all that info just hangin out in one place. but again, i decided to give the anxiety phase the finger and try to get to the good stuff. i was able to plug in both my credit cards, my bank account, and one of my two student loans (bummer that the lender for the larger of the two wasn’t available). i still haven’t sorted out importing my mortgage, but that’s more the fault of me using a small local bank (i do think it’s possible in time though).
regardless of the 2 unimportable accounts, and the vague uneasiness about dishing out my data, everything was quite simple and smooth. it initially took a little finagling to make sure that all my checking account transactions were appropriately classified so they fell into the right categories. although there’s a really nice function that lets you apply a classification across a group of transactions, and i found the whole setup to be super-intuitive.
now that mint knew all my secrets, what mysteries would be revealed? well, as it turns out (as evidenced by the above pie chart), i actually spent more money on eating out this month than i did on my mortgage. those 5 pairs of shoes certainly put an unfortunate dent in there as well. even when i’m balancing my checkbook, even when i’m paying attention, i’m never quite vigilant enough to catch everything that flies through my accounts. i’ve been keeping an excel budget for YEARS that to me seemed fair and reasonable. but when mint made me set up a budget for coffee and movies and restaurants and clothes… it made me realize how insufficient and quasi-delusional my budget really is. no wonder i was always short at the end of the month (always borrowing from the next paycheck down the line). shame!
because mint looks at all incoming deposits and expenditures and throws them automatically into budget buckets over the course of the month, i no longer need to waste time trying corral my finances into a woefully ineffective excel spreadsheet. instead, i can spend my energy monitoring my spending and trying to keep it under control. i’m pretty positive that if i keep up with it, mint will keep me honest. it will now be entirely impossible for me to be in denial about where my money is really going. $38 on coffee- check. $235 on shoes- double check. all laid out beautifully in cheerfully colored pie charts and bar graphs.
the only feature i wasn’t particularly impressed with was the “ways to save” tab. really, it’s just a place to get online quotes for loans and credit cards and so on… i’m assuming that’s how they make their money. i know that i can get better rates on pretty much all of their offered services via local banks and credit unions, and i also know that it will be pretty easy for me to avoid that tab all together.
all in all, mint is a lot cooler than i thought it was going to be, and if you’re having a hard time getting your hands around your finances (and don’t mind giving out some personal data), it’s a must try. and no, they didn’t pay me to say that. as always, nobody pays me shit to do shit (except of course my actual employer). although also as always, i would love to whore out my opinion for cash. mint.com of all people should know at this point how much i need it.