If you read the article you’ll know that my getting started with Mint was not entirely free of problems. In fact, it took me several emails back and forth with Intuit Customer Support just to get to the point where I could see all my bank accounts but without being able to see my transactions or balances.
I can now see the big picture
One last email to Intuit got me to the big picture – where I could see all of my financial information on one screen. Mint really is nothing short of amazing. When I open the program on my computer it shows me an overview of my financial situation, including how much cash I have, how much I owe to Chase Credit Cards and a list of my bank accounts. It would also show me how much I owe in loans – except I don’t have any. In addition, Mint provided me with two “Alerts.” One had to do with uncategorized transactions it found in the past month; the other was that it had found a credit card with a 0.00% APR for 15 months that would save me $391 versus the Chase Card I am currently using.
Mint has six tabs across the top of the screen in addition to Overview. They are Transactions, Budget, Goals, Trends, Investments, and Ways to Save.
When I click on Transactions, Mint displays a list of all my spending for the past month. It also shows me how it has categorized my spending – Groceries, Business Services, Utilities and so forth. If I wanted to see even more of my history I could click on the number 2 and Mint would display all of them for the prior month.
Clicking on the tab Budget shows me how much I had spent in each of Mint’s budget categories. However, spoiler alert – some of the information provided by Mint may not be totally accurate. As an example of this, the amount of money it has as my amount of cash is wildly inaccurate. And for some reason, Mint apparently added my Homeowner Equity Line of Credit to its category Credit Cards.
My bank accounts
On its Overview screen, Mint displays the name of my bank, under which is Visa Credit Card. However, clicking on this actually brings up a list of all four of my bank accounts. When I click on one of them, Mint displays its balance and a list of all my transactions for the past month. It adds a category description to each of them and also displays a bar graph of my spending history. I was pleasantly surprised at how good Mint is in assigning categories as it seems to be near 90% accurate. The exceptions being checks I wrote as Mint cannot know anything about a check except that it was a check and its amount.
As noted above, clicking on the tab Budget brings up a list of my spending by category. However, it also displays my Income and Spending and for some reason these numbers are also totally inaccurate. I cannot explain why this the case but believe that as I use Mint in the weeks ahead those numbers may become closer to reality.
In my case, Mint’s main budget categories are Auto & Transport, Food & Dining (Groceries) and Food & Dining (Restaurants). Then there is Everything Else, which includes categories such as Bills & Utilities (Internet), Gifts & Donations, Business Services (Office Supplies), Health & Fitness (Health Insurance), Home (Lawn & Garden) and Shopping. Unfortunately, I also found errors here. As an example of this, I don’t pay anything directly for health insurance, nor do I pay directly for the Internet as it’s in my CenturyLink Prism bill. Also, I don’t remember having spent anything in the category Auto & Transport (Service & Parts).
Mint is a great program and clearly represents a very powerful way to manage personal finances. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get a handle on their spending, develop a budget and do a better job of managing their money. However, using Mint does require some work. If you bank with Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank or Citi, you may not have as big a problem getting started as I did but it may take some work. It will also take some work to create a budget although Mint makes it fairly simple as all you do is select a category and then type in an amount. Or you can let Mint set the budget number for you. As an example of this, Mint set a budget of $511 a month for me for Bills & Utilities. I’ll have to review what I actually spent in this category to determine whether I want to accept the $511. Ditto its other budget categories.
Mint can be a great tool even if you have no interest in creating a budget or setting goals. Just the fact that it displays all your important financial information on one screen makes Mint worthwhile – to say nothing of the fact that it will provide your credit score and alert you about upcoming bills, which could certainly help you keep from missing a payment. Mint’s main screen also displays information about your budget for the month and will advise you if it finds a credit card that would be better than the one you’re currently using.
In short, Mint can be whatever you want it to be. You could use it to develop a budget, set goals, track all of your spending and your investments. Or you could use it just to see a picture of your finances at a glance. In other words, the more effort you’re willing to put into setting up Mint the more it will do for you.