After 17 years of tracking our finances on Microsoft Money, I switched to Mint.com in early 2009. I’m so happy I did, and am thrilled that when I prepare my 2010 taxes, everything will be easily accessible Mint. If you’re not already signed up for Mint.com, the start of a new year is the perfect time to do so.
The first thing you do when you sign up for Mint is to input the login information for the online sites for your credit cards, bank accounts, mortgage, and other financial sites you use. I know: that sounds scary. But Mint has been highly acclaimed by The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, and many other legitimate sources, and is used by over 4 million people. Also, even though Mint pulls in the information about your accounts, when you’re logged on you can neither see those passwords nor transfer money to or from accounts. So at worst, someone would be able to see your entries and balances if they logged in, but they wouldn’t be able to steal your money. Click here to read about Mint’s security features.
Here’s how I use Mint:
When I log in, the first thing I see is my total cash, my total debt, and a list of transactions from all my accounts combined. Here’s what a portion of my transaction list recently looked like:
I’ve “trained” Mint to recognize certain transactions as belonging to specific categories. For example, In-N-Out Burger always goes to Fast Food. When I saw the above transactions, I changed “Fresh Easy” to be “Fresh & Easy” and I put it in the Groceries category. In the future, when Mint sees “Fresh Easy”, it’ll automatically change it to “Fresh & Easy” and categorize it as Groceries.
It’s very easy to search for specific transactions by name, category or amount. I can also create categories (e.g., “Kathy’s income”) and can input checks before they are deposited.
This is where Mint shines. You can see a graph, pie chart, or list summarizing your transactions for a given time period by category or merchant.
I prefer the pie chart. When you click on a sub-category in the pie chart, you dig deeper into the information. This makes it extremely easy to determine income and expenses when I do my taxes. Here’s what our auto expenses look like. If I click on any of these sub-categories, I’ll see all the transactions for that subcategory.
Since Mint includes all of our checking and credit card transactions, plus any cash transactions I input, I’ve been able to capture expenses that I might have otherwise missed when I used Microsoft Money.
These are the main Mint features I use, but you can also track investments, set up budgets and set goals. There’s no way I’d ever return to Microsoft Money.
Here’s an official Mint.com video explaining how it works:
I decided to set up my budget on Mint.com, and was amazed by how easy it was. I’d just choose a dropdown subcategory, fill in the monthly budget, and say whether I wanted it to roll over each month. (For example, my food budget doesn’t roll over each month, but my auto repairs do.) I’ve already gone over for the month on my restaurant budget, so Mint sent me an email informing me that I’m over budget in that category. I’ll need to be more diligent about categorizing, especially when it comes to charges at places like Target where I might buy things in different categories on the same trip, but I’m looking forward to Mint.com helping me to keep even better track of our finances than it already is.