Analyzing your own financial information and spending habits may seem like a daunting task. With so many places to check, bank accounts to comb through, and credit cards to scrutinize, many may decide to just give up and let the financial chips fall where they may. But there is one online service that can help you track your spending habits and it is open to anyone with active bank, credit card, or other accounts. The site is Mint.com, and it is ready to help you get a grip on your finances.
What is Mint.com?:
Mint.com is a money management service from Intuit that tracks spending habits, allowing consumers to see exactly the areas in which money is spent and what proportion of spending goes to everything from food to entertainment to health care. The service tallies up spending and lets you see, in graphic and in table form, exactly where your money goes from week to week and month to month.
How Does it Work?:
Mint.com gathers its information through its on- line web site, which is linked directly to your bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, etc. It scans these accounts and watches for spending activity via debit and credit cards, transfers of funds, and other activities, then summarizes the data for you to see.
Besides the direct tracking of spending, Mint.com also offers a budget plan whereby you define a specific budget and receive periodic feedback from Mint.com to let you know if your spending is within its defined means. There is even a mobile application for your cell phone that can be accessed anywhere, letting you see up to date information relating to spending and consumption habits. It will send you bill reminders, too, so that you do not miss an important payment.
What Does it Cost?:
Mint.com is a completely free service from Intuit- the same company that has brought Quicken Financial software, Quickbooks, and other well- known services into the world. Mint.com has a customer database over six million strong and as more and more people discover its free service, the number is bound to grow. The service makes its money from the fees it collects when members accept a new service with a new credit or other provider. Mint.com analyzes your finances on a regular basis and if it determines there is a better bank or better credit card for you, it advises you to make the change. If you do, it collects a small referral fee. There is no pressure on you, the Mint.com user, to accept any offer and you can delete your Mint.com account at any time.
For the time- restrained parent, Mint.com is a great place to turn. It summarizes spending habits and reports back to you with graphic illustrations of cash outflows. It organizes your budget and lets you know if/when you exceed your set limits. It notifies you of better financial deals and it reminds you to pay your bills. All of this is offered at no cost, making Mint.com a great deal from a purely cost perspective.
Probably the greatest hesitation consumers have when deciding whether or not to sign up with Mint.com is the issue of account security. After all, part of the signup involves inputting your bank, credit card, investment account, and other personal information so that Mint.com can access them and report its findings. For this to happen, you must be willing to turn over your logon information and other sensitive data. Mint.com is fully aware of this concern and it uses Verisign and other tools to ensure that personal data is completely secure.
Mint.com doesn’t always categorize expenses correctly, so there will be some manual intervention from time to time. But considering the service is free and has so much to offer, it makes sense to at least give the service a try and see what you think. There are better, more thorough money management systems available, but most carry a one- time or even a monthly fee and the extra services they offer are not necessary in most instances.
Tracking money and maintaining a budget can be time consuming and tedious, but Mint.com is here to help. Its visual illustrations and many financial tools make it a service worth trying and it can help most anyone gain tighter control over spending and other financial problems. Setup an account today, and see for yourself.
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey