Mint.com: A Financial Management Application

Apr 07, 2011 @ 06:17 pm by HackingManual

Mint is a free online financial management application located at Mint.com and also offers applications for iPhone and Android phones which allow you to connect to your online account.

First I’ll start off with an introduction to how mint works. Mint connects securely to your all of your financial institutions and synchronizes with them so you can see all of your accounts in one place including loans, checking, and savings accounts. Mint also connects to your credit card and investment accounts. It automatically syncs all of your transactions and categorizes them in order to track your budgets and allow you to see where your money is being spent. If you have any accounts, transactions, assets or liabilities that cannot automatically be synced you can enter this information manually. As an example, I have student loans that cannot be automatically synced. I have entered this information manually in order to best reflect my net worth. Another example might be if you have a job that pays cash or tips, you can enter this income manually as well.

Mint creates personal financial reports in a very easy to understand way. It shows you the positive or negative amount in each account and category; the categories are cash, credit cards, loans, investments and property. It should be noted that the cash category actually reflects your bank accounts, while the property category reflects any assets or liabilities entered manually. So if you manually entered five hundred in cash savings at home and a loan for five thousand it will be added to the property category instead of the cash or loan category. It then combines all of your assets and liabilities to show your net worth. I can see that my net worth is negative because I have more liabilities than assets.  You can also view your net worth over time and it creates a bar graph to help you better visualize how it has improved or worsened over time.  It also shows a table which can be exported to excel. There are other reports that can be viewed in the same manner as net worth. The other reports available are spending, income, net income, assets and debts. These reports can be further filtered to show more details. My favorite report is net income because I can quickly see if I spent more than I earned during that month. If you need a more detailed financial statement than is offered you can still use this information to prepare a financial statement quickly and easily.

Mint allows you to create budgets for any category and allows you to create complicated budgets. A complicated budget might be that you pay your car insurance every six months instead of every month. You can set budgets for once a month or once every couple months. You can set the specific amount of months between 2 and 12. So if you want to set a budget for five hundred dollars per year on clothes, or five hundred dollars per year on car maintenance you can easily do that. You can also make budgets rollover if you wish. So any money not used toward that budget will be carried over to allow you to spend extra the next month for that category. Mint tracks your budgets automatically based on your spending transactions and automatically categorizes them for you. You might have to slightly adjust the spending transaction categories if Mint cannot.  For example, if you write a check for rent, you will have to tell Mint that the check was for rent so it can reflect that in your budget. Mint will optionally send you email or text message alerts if you happen to go over your budget in a specific category. Mint has an everything else category for any money you spent that you did not create a budget for, this is useful for unplanned expenses and you can set a budget for those unplanned expenses as well.

Mint helps you monitor your spending easily. In the trends section you can view the spending report. You can view your spending by category or by merchant. You can additionally view the current month, or a range of months by category or merchant. It creates pie charts and bar graphs as well as a table that can be exported to excel. You can also view all of your spending transactions and edit or add them as needed. You can search through these transactions based on name or category as well as export them to excel. If you need to edit a repetitive transaction that Mint has been mislabeling you can set the option to always label this transaction in a specific category. You can also set tags on your transactions like tax related or reimbursable, this helps you quickly find tax expenses at the end of the year or items you need to be reimbursed for.

You can also monitor your savings with Mint. You can view the assets report in the trend section and filter by account. Now you can view your savings accounts and you can select a range of months, and compare them to the past. Mint also has a goals section where you can set a specific savings goal which it monitors and tracks and adds to your budget. It tracks that goal by monitoring a specific savings account for that goal. You can set the date you would like to reach the goal and how much you will contribute per month. It will then track total progress, and let you know how far behind or ahead you are on reaching your goal. There are many savings goals this can be used for; you can save for a new car, a new house, an emergency fund or even retirement. Based on your type of savings goal it even offers customized guides to help you figure out how much to save and how to reach your goal.

Mint also allows you to monitor your investments. I have found that Mint actually gives me a better picture of my investments than my investment company does. The main four functions are performance, value, allocation and comparison. Performance shows you the performance of your investments over time in relation to how much you paid for them. This helps you realize overall gains and losses. Value shows you the overall value of your investments and how much they have increased or decreased over time. Allocation shows you the allocation based on the asset type or the stock symbol. Comparison compares your investments to Dow Jones, S&P 500, and NASDAQ.  The bottom section has a table which shows you if applicable the current price of the share, the amount of shares, price paid, market value, and the amount of change in percent and dollar values.

Overall Mint is a great and easy way to prepare personal financial statements, create budgets and monitor spending, saving, and investing. It is free, very easy to use for beginners and requires little maintenance. These are advantages to many other financial applications.

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