Couple posts ago I mentioned a new service I started using to track all my debts and more. This service is mint.com now owned by intuit, yes same company that makes quicken. A lot of those in the PF community already know and use this service but incase you dont here’s the scoop. This online service is free of charge and allows you to track all your accounts, debts, investments as well as budgets and goals. Not only does it give you one place to view your financial status but it analyzes your spending and make suggestions as well as send you text/email alerts that you set up. I started using this service when I was looking up quicken, hoping to get my finances in order again.
Is it Really Free?
Yes it is free to sign up and use. The way they make their money is by analyzing your spending and your accounts and then making recommendations to you that will help you. For instance they may notice your savings account may only pay 1% interest so they will recommend some others that pay more. Im sure they also do analysis of all the data of their users to see trends in spending and such but your info is not shared. Im ok with this, dont matter to me if someone uses how much groceries I spend money on for a report somewhere.
You start off by entering each account and the online access info you use to normally view your information. Almost every financial institute allows you to access your account online and mint.com has these already in their system. Just do a search and then enter your log in info for that site. You enter your banks, investment firms, mortgage, credit cards, all of it. If you own property you would also enter the address for each one and it will use Zestimate to find an estimate on its value (if you have a loan on the property you also tie it to the loan). Once that is done every time you log into your mint.com account you have all your accounts visible on the overview page, showing all the balances and values with your net worth on the bottom.
Not only that your overview page will show you alerts, upcoming bills (it automatically finds the due dates) budget graphs, goals and portfolio highlights. And of course at the bottom suggestions for improvements.
You can click on any of your accounts or the transaction tab up top and it will show you all your transactions, or just ones associated to the account you choose. When I did this it went back to May getting transactions so it gets a good history when you start, not sure if this limit is Mint’s or my Banks. It will also categorize all your transactions, and do a pretty damn good job, but you can of course add your own then set up rules to make sure it gets the right category. I look at it like quicken but I dont have to do any data entry. Whats neat is if you click on a transaction, say my insurance payment, in the upper right it gives you a little snapshot of what you have spent on this payee in the past few months with a comparison to the national average (seems I’m paying a little more)
One of the keys to financial planning and debt reduction is budgets. With mint.com you can set up budgets for any and all of your categories and it will be automatically tracked with the transactions. This is displayed in a nice graph on the budgets page and color coded of course (green, yellow, red) to track you progress. There is a snap shot on the right shows your total income/spending/goal budget progress as well. These are all monthly budgets and reset on the 1st for you.
This is for more of your long term goals and it has a few wizards to help you in setting them, like credit card reduction. You would activate this goal, it will find all your credit card accounts and show you a payment schedule based on minimums (you can increase) and sets it up with the snowball plan. Pay off one and apply its payments to the next credit card until all paid off. It will even calculate an estimated date for pay off based on this, and based on your current payments. It also has goals for emergency funds, retirement, saving for college and of course custom goals.
This area gives you nice little pie charts and graphs that show you how are spending your money, how you are making it, assets, debts, and net worth. If you have your categories all set up the way you want these graphs will come in handy to see were your money is coming and going and help you make decisions on where you need to cut back.
The investments tab is pretty self explanatory but worth mentioning. Again it takes all your investment accounts that you entered and draws in all the data to give you daily status of value and charts comparing your investment to the Dow or S&P plus much more. If you have multiple accounts for investments this is a great way to get a snapshot of your total portfolio, again with no data entry which is my favorite. (ya thats a rough patch for me this month).
Going Mobile and Alerts
They do currently have an iphone app (I believe droid as well) that allows you to view key items on the go. The big use for it is to enter cash transactions that wouldn’t normally come through from your bank, they can then be analyze with other transactions for your budgets and trends.
You can even set up your alerts for items like bills due, low account balance, unusual activity, even credit score changes. These can be emailed and/or texted to you. You can even set up a weekly summary to be emailed to you showing you where your money went that week.
As mentioned earlier in the post this is a lot like quicken but without the hassle of data entry. Almost everything is done automatically. You can tweak things as needed and once everything is set to your liking its a great way to just log in and see your whole financial picture on one page, from any computer. Safe and secure it will help you keep track of your financial life and thus help focus on the debt pay off and maximizing your savings.
Have you tried Mint.com? Whats your thoughts?
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