Today, there seems to be an app for everything. And nearly every app is designed to get you to spend money. But are there apps that will truly help me save money?
Mint.com is a simple app that allows you to link all of your accounts to one easy-to-use platform. Its free to signup and only takes a few minutes to link your accounts.
Please note, you must already have online banking set up with your bank in order to use the app. Therefore, if you don’t have online banking already set-up, you will need to go to your bank to set up an online account with your bank. Mint.com works by adding your bank accounts onto their platform to present your financial information in a slick web-interface, complete with graphs and charts.
The app itself is fun, intuitive, and easy to understand. The service is particularly useful for budgeting, creating goals, and looking at all your financial accounts in one place.
As previously mentioned, it requires linking your bank accounts to the app. I loaded up all my debt accounts first so I could capture how much I actually owe all in one place. It recognized my credit card and student loan accounts instantly. However, it didn’t recognize all of my accounts immediately. For instance, it took 24 hours to recognize one of my accounts from a local bank. In fact, depending on your bank, you may not be able to link all of your accounts. That said, mint.com recognized most of my major accounts so when I was finished, I did feel like it accurately reflected my net worth.
After linking my accounts, I was able to look over all my recent transactions and categorize my spending habits. Mint.com initially auto-categorizes your transactions. Most of them are correct, but there were also a lot of transaction that were mislabeled that I had to re-categorize. It was a little inconvenient at first, but once I adjusted a transaction to a different category, mint.com saved it and automatically remembered it for all future transactions. For example, it labeled my parking meter charges as “other” at first, but then remembered to categorize it as “transportation expense” later.
After three weeks of using the app, I quickly realized that I was spending money at restaurants way more each month than I realized. So I tried out mint.com weekly summaries via email. I normally hate emails from apps, but I thought a weekly email would reveal more about what I was buying each week closer to when I purchased it, so I would be more likely to remember.
Truthfully, it was about as useful as most email alerts. I only really checked it when I had the time, and if I was busy, I just deleted the email before reading it. I think if I checked my mint.com account before I bought every meal I would have resisted spending more. But who has the time? I’m usually grabbing lunch because I’m in a hurry and on the go. Therefore the email feature didn’t stop me from making purchases, but it did help me see what I was buying and how much. After a few weeks of using the email feature, I did notice that I started packing my lunch more, and I was more deliberate about the price of my lunch when I was purchasing my lunch on the go.
Another useful feature is the alert function. You can set it up either with your phone or via email for every late fee, bill reminder, rate change, or when you go over budget on a category. I used this function to alert me when I would go over budget on eating out, and I found this function much more useful to control my spending then the weekly email. The reminders for bill due dates was also a nice feature that I highly recommend.
Lastly, mint.com has a credit monitoring function that I found useful. Mint.com allows you to view and monitor your credit score, payment history, errors, and account usage. I was hesitant at first to enter my credit information, but after checking their terms of service, I opted to enter my info.
Remember when using mint.com the company makes money by acting as a lead generator for other financial services. Which means that the company makes money by recommending various financial services, which they get a referral fee for every customer that signs up. Therefore be on the lookout of when the site is directing you to a third party service, as those services usually cost money.
All in all, I find mint.com a great budgeting tool and I recommend it to those looking to get their finances back on track.