Online Budgeting? Yep, There’s An App for That

Mint.com reviewMaking a personal budget is no easy task.

Sure, sitting down to make tough decisions on how to allocate funds and where to cut back can be intimidating.  But it’s a piece of cake compared to actually tracking your financials month-to-month.

If you’re anything like me, adding up purchases and tracking progress towards budgetary goals just isn’t a top priority.  Not with everything else on my plate.

Fortunately, there are a number of affordable, secure, easy-to-use online applications on the market that can really help simplify the budgeting process.

Part of the difficulty with budgeting is making tough decision after tough decision.  Paralysis by analysis can quickly set in – what’s the right amount to spend on food?  What about transportation?  And don’t forget about coffee!

What’s the Right Personal Financial App for You?
Finding the right personal financial app shouldn’t be another complicated decision.  But there are enough really good options on the market right now that pulling the trigger can be tricky.

We’re happy to help with the heavy-lifting.  In this post, the first of a series of three, I’ll be diving deep into popular personal finance app Mint – evaluating tools, identifying weaknesses, and wrapping things up with a final verdict.  All so you don’t have to!

What Is Mint?
Mint is one of the largest, most well-known personal finance applications available.  Over 10 million users trust the web-based service to track their bank account, investment, auto loan, and mortgage accounts in one single place.

The Positives
• Mint is 100% free to use.  There’s no trial period and no sneaky upgrade boundaries that keep you from using the really cool tools and calculators.

• Mint is available online and provides on-the-go access with apps for Apple, Google Android, and Windows mobile devices.

• Mint tracks all your accounts and bills (no matter the source) in one place – updating and categorizing information automatically and suggesting ways to help you save.

• Mint sends weekly summaries via email and you can receive customized text or email alerts for things like late fees, bill reminders, and rate changes.

• Mint is safe to use, offering the same security and protection that leading banks use.

• Mint is no sketchy application that just showed up on the Apple store a few weeks back.  It’s been around since 2006 and is owned by Intuit – a respected financial software provider and makers of Quicken and TurboTax.

• In addition to income and expense tracking, Mint provides investment tracking, including aggregating all your investment accounts into one place, comparing your portfolio to market benchmarks, and exposing hidden investment fees.

• Mint is hosted in the cloud, so upgrades to the app happen regularly.

• Mint makes budgeting easy by helping you create a personalize plan and tracking purchases in an easy-to-understand graphical interface.  It even shows you how much you’ll save by cutting back in a category and how much money you have left for those special one-time purchases.  Helloooo Xbox One!

The Negatives
• Mint is a totally free service, but it does come with a bit of a catch.  To pay the bills, Mint provides users with periodic marketing offers, like credit cards and loans.  If you follow-up on a recommendation, Mint makes a small fee from the transaction.

• Because Mint is free, customer support options are a bit dicey.  They offer email help and access to web support forums, but no phone-based support.

• Mint lacks some of the higher-end tools of other personal financial apps, like bill paying, moving money between accounts, and the ability to save digital copies of your bills, notices, and receipts online.

• Some Mint users have complained about periodic back-end issues – including account synching problems and bugs with auto categorization of expenses.

• Mint doesn’t allow data to be imported from other financial applications.

The Verdict
Mint is a great option if you want a graphical, proven, easy-to-access-and-use personal finance application.  Not to mention it’s 100% free!

Mint’s tools help millions of users manage accounts in one place, track budget goals, and stay on top of bills and reminders.  Additionally, it’s been around for nearly a decade and has the backing of financial software giant Intuit.

It does come up short in the features department when compared to more comprehensive apps, like Manila or Check (more on those apps in upcoming posts).  But that doesn’t keep it from being a go-to financial planning and budgeting tool for more than 10 million people.

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