How Mint Works and Can Help Your Financial Health
Mint is the Granddaddy of financial apps. Founded in 2006, Mint reported that it passed 20 million users in 2016. Although that doesn’t mean that 20 million were actively using it, such a huge number is strong evidence that something good is going on.
How you manage your finances is up to you (or maybe it is up to your spouse?). You may be a planner who digs into the details and develops a solid plan to build good financial health. Or, you may be someone who drifts along, paying important bills but not giving much thought to how you spend money or making long-term financial plans.
Whatever your personality, you can benefit from some financial tools that make managing your money easier. There really is no good excuse for not taking advantage of one of the many financial apps available, especially if you consider that they can:
- Save you time,
- Organize your finances more efficiently,
- Focus your attention on the effects of your current choices
- Motivate you to reach financial goals
- Help you build good financial health
Easy to Use Budgeting Tool and More
Mint gives you well-designed and easy-to-use platform to create a budget and perform other important parts of good money management: monitor your cash flow, get a free credit score, and keep track of your bills, account transactions, net worth, and investment growth.
Mint gives you all the information in one place, and the app makes it accessible wherever your phone has coverage. Most accounts are updated daily, as you log-in. Mint provides you with detailed, but easy to digest information to make smart spending choices. It also protects you by setting reminders, so you don't miss a payment, and sending alerts so you avoid unhappy surprises, like late fees.
Start Linking Accounts Slowly
If you want to get the most out of Mint you will certainly want to link any bank accounts and credit cards you use. You can link most any bill that you have. In Mint’s words, they “connect to almost every US financial institution connected to the internet.” These account will update automatically, when you log in, so you can track your activity on all your accounts. You can also enter in manually bills you have that Mint would not be able to gather, such as your rent. You can add your student loans, personal loans and investment accounts.
Interestingly, Mint advises that you start with just your bank accounts and the credit cards you use most. They apparently have learned that users can get overwhelmed trying to put all their accounts in when they first start using the app. As you start using the app, you will see the way they present information and advice. Then, little by little you can link other bills and accounts, including investment accounts so you have a full snapshot of your finances.
Categorize Spending to Find Areas to Improve
To help you analyze your spending habits, Mint makes it easy to categorize your expenses. There are suggested categories or you can create your own categories or sub-categories. It takes some effort to make sure your items are categorized correctly and to enter any cash purchases. The payoff can be big. It is very motivating to see in black and white (or in a nifty color chart), exactly what you are spending on dining out, entertainment, groceries, or any of your expenses that vary from month-to-month, and how the actual expenses compare to the spending goals you set.
Goals, Trends, and Savings
Part of creating a budget is setting targets in different areas, so you have enough to cover all your fixed expenses and enough to put aside for savings, investment, and retirement.
Mint has an area where you can create goals so you can integrate an important goal like getting out of debt, or saving for a down payment, into your budget.
Once you have used it for a number of months you will be able to get value from the “Trends” feature, which will give you a number of reports and graphs. It is easy to customize reports by date, expense category, type of transaction or account and you can export the reports if you want to print them out and review them.
Mint offers you ways to save money, by recommending financial products that they feel will help you. This is a source of income to Mint, if you select some product or service from a Mint referral. That doesn’t make it bad. Evaluate the products based on your need and whether comparison shopping can get you a better deal on the same product or service.
Free Credit Report
Mint offers a free credit score tracking, using the Experian report, and along with the score gives you access to details on your credit report, so you can track your payment history, credit utilization, and whether anything inaccurate is appearing on your report. This helps you find ways to act to build an excellent credit score.
Some Downsides to Mint
Some of the negatives that Mint users have called out include:
- Weak investment tools
- Problems, at times, with accounts syncing smoothly
Is Mint Safe?
Some people are concerned about the security of the accounts enrolled with Mint, because you have to give Mint the log-in and password you use. It is not that there is a history of users having accounts breached by hackers. It is the potential that the user would be held responsible if a third-party gained access to one of the user’s accounts and passwords through Mint that concerns some. Mint counters that with a robust security protocol and a strong track record, as wek as and the track record of their parent company Intuit, and Intuit’s Turbo Tax.
You certainly can’t complain about the price. Free is great!
Mint is not the only app you can use to accomplish budgeting, analyzing your spending, setting financial goals, and monitoring your progress. The important task is to find something that works for you, then stick to it.