My dad is a CPA, as such he taught me early on the importance of tracking your spending and reconciling all of your credit card statements etc. He and my mom always used Quicken to track all of their spending. I remember every month when my mom would get have to go through and make sure they had entered all of their transactions and reconcile their credit card bills. So, when I got old enough to have my own computer it also came with a copy of Quicken and I started to track my own finances as well. I think i did pretty well through at least the first few years of college, and then when Eric and I got married I kept meaning to get us all set up with Quicken and never did.
Finally, after we’d been married for about a year I went online to see if I could get an updated version of Quicken. It seemed like in the 5 years since I’d first installed Quicken there was probably a version that at least ran faster. I was in for a surprise! Not only did they have newer versions of Quicken, but they had an online version that could be used for free! Since I’m a big fan of things that are online and free, and Quicken is a brand that I trust I decided to check it out. I fell in love. All I had to do was enter in credentials for our various bank accounts, 401ks, credit cards etc. and all of my transactions were imported instantly. No more reconciling statements, my statements were imported, and categorized automatically! I was thrilled.
Within a few months Quicken bought out a company called Mint.com and started having them take over their online financial tracking solution. What was already awesome got even better, better budget tracking, setting up goals, better algorithms for automatically categorizing transactions etc. I immediately started telling my family that they needed to get set up with Mint.com. My brother and sister did so and also loved what they found. I actually thought that my mom had switched over to Mint from their desktop Quicken solution until a few weeks ago. I had spouted off to her many many times about how much I loved Mint and how wonderful it was, but apparently she hadn’t entirely believed me. A couple weeks ago my mom called me up and said “Why didn’t you tell me how easy and useful Mint is?!?” The answer was… I had 🙂 She had fallen behind on their Quicken tracking and it was time to either start over with Quicken or switch to Mint. She decided to give Mint a try and was instantly hooked. She had it all set up in less than an hour and was able to look at their budget in a whole new way!
So why do I love Mint so much? Here’s a basic overview of what Mint can do:
Spending Trends – Have you ever looked at your bank balances and wondered where all of your money went? Mint provides easy to read graphs that break down how your money is being spent. When I first got this set up I was shocked to see that we had spent over $400 one month on eating out. Granted I was working full time and pregnant and sick with Sam at the time, but I was appalled to see how the nights that I hadn’t felt up to cooking added up.
Budgeting – So, now you know how much you spend, how to fix places where you’re spending too much? Mint makes it really easy to set up a budget and stick to it. They even suggest amounts based on your current spending so you don’t have to guess what a reasonable amount is. You can set up budgets that occur every month, or on any sort of schedule during the year. You can set up your budgets to roll over each month or not. They also keep track of whether your budget amounts exceed your monthly income. Plus you can set up your account to email or text you if you go over budget in any category.
Goals – We all have financial goals. Whether it’s paying off credit cards, saving for a house or building up your emergency fund there’s something that you want to do with your money. Mint makes it super easy to track these goals and help you make a plan to achieve them. Just decide what kind of goal you have, pick an account to associate it with and then make the plan. Mint will help you decide how much you need to budget each month to achieve your goal and tell you if you fall off track.
Another reason I use Mint is it helps me detect any fraudulent charges on my accounts. Back in February I was going through our accounts and noticed a charge from Match.com – which obviously if either Eric or I were signing up for was a bit of a problem. Someone had gotten a hold of our credit card numbers and was making charges to fake companies. They weren’t huge charges though so if I hadn’t been paying attention I probably wouldn’t have noticed $30 here and $15 there. But because I was watching we were able to put a stop to those charges before they escalated.
One of the major questions I had when I first found Mint is how are they making money off of this? Nothing on the internet is truly free, someone is paying for it somewhere, and before handing my financial information over to someone I wanted to know what the “catch” was. Mint makes it’s money through targeted advertising. They’ll notice if you have an old 401k account that’s charging you maintenance fees an make a suggestion for another company that won’t charge you fees. Or if you’re spending a lot in a particular category they might recommend a credit card that gives you higher rewards for purchases in that category. And of course, they’ll suggest using TurboTax when tax season comes around.
I could go on and on, I love reading their financial blog, their customer service is pretty darn good and they email me a summary of my accounts every week! But really, for you to understand how awesome it is, you’re just going to have to try it for yourself 🙂