Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Favorite Financial Things:

My newest money obsession is Mint. Mint is great! It’s a financial tool that allows you to upload your financial information (bank accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and liabilities) to help you track your spending, debt, and goals. Mint even helps you budget.

Mint is a great tool for someone, like me, who doesn’t do the best job of budgeting or checking accounts often (other than paying the bill every month). With Mint it’s all in one place, organized, and evaluated. Just sign into your Mint account and its all there. Even if you don’t sign into Mint, you can set up alerts to be sent to your email or cell phone…and they even have apps for your cell phone.

Using Mint has been an eye opening experience. I thought I was being more financially responsible, until Mint so kindly showed that my spending on food and miscellaneous spending is still way too high. Some months my GF and I spent more than $800 on groceries and eating out…for 2 people. No bueno. Each month our food spending is going down as we find ways that work for us like eating out once a week and depending on the restaurant we share a meal, cooking during the week so we have dinner and lunch for the next day, and making a meal list for the week before we go to the grocery store – and sticking to it.

For a long time I was very reluctant to upload my information to Mint, which is why I am just getting around to writing about it. I was unsure about having all my information out there but Mint is very secure. I read a lot about Mint before trusting the website for myself and since using it I have quickly grown to love Mint. If you are unsure of, like I was, check out their Terms of Use.

What does Mint do?

Mint allows you to upload your financial information and places everything into categories. There is a section for you accounts that is broken down into Cash – bank accounts and savings accounts, Credit Cards, Loans, Investments, and Property. Using these categories, Mint shows your Net Worth also. Your Net Worth is your assets and your debts added together; basically how much you are worth financially. Each category can be expanded to show your individual accounts.


Budgeting is pretty easy with Mint, after you enter all your information there is a preset budget. You can adjust the budget to meet your needs and see places you need to spend less since you can now see where you are actually spending your money. Mint uses green, yellow, and red to let you know how on track you are with your budget. Besides food, I usually go over on alcohol spending each month.


Using the Transactions section gives you a day-to-day look at your spending. You can put things into categories, which you can look at in the Trends section. All your spending from each account (checking, savings, credit card) you have registered with Mint shows up in the Transaction section.


The Trends section shows you how much each category of your spending is taking up. National Averages say Housing 24%, Utilities 8%, Food 14%, Clothing 4%, Medical/Healthcare 6%, Donations 4%, Savings and Insurance 9%, Entertainment 5%, Transportation 14%, Personal/Debt 12%. I have a ways to go before my spending meets the National Averages. But the Trends sections lets you see how close or far you are.


One of the things I love most about Mint is the Goals section. You can select from preset goals or create your own. Input how much money you need to complete your goal and Mint tells you how you are doing. If you are behind, on target, or ahead; Mint will tell you.


As you can see, I behind on everything so far. The dot is where I am supposed to be to meet my goals by the time I set. Being able to see my goals and my progress helps me to know where I need to be or even that I may need to readjust my goals to fit my financial situation.

Mint even tells you when you are paying more than the National average for things like health and auto insurance and credit cards and where you might be able to get a better deal on checking and savings accounts. Mint does most of the work for you; fill in some information and Mint gives you some options to switch things around to save you the most money possible. Of course you should do some research for yourself, but Mint gives you a place to start.

Mint is the perfect tool for anyone looking to gain financial independence because everything is laid out in front of you with little effort on your part.

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