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Mint – Financially fresh

In the fifth post of this six-part series (parts 1, 2, 3, 4) I’m covering a tool that has been in the forefront of online personal finance for quite a while.  In fact, Mint was the first personal finance website that I ever heard of, though I was unable to use it then because my bank was not supported at the time.  I do know many people that use Mint and are very happy with it.  Let’s take a look at what Mint has to offer (as well as were it falls short).

One of the nice things about Mint is the amount of attention paid to the small details.  The way you view and edit transactions is so seamless.  Just click on the name and start typing to rename it.  You can select categories from the generated drop down list, or you can type your own.  You can see which store you frequent the most often, and you can even see how your spending compares to the US average in specific categories.  When it comes to using Mint, everything just feels right.

Something that is really cool about Mint is how it automatically looks for ways to save you money.  For example, it noticed that I could earn a higher interest rate by using a savings account on E-trade instead of the one that I currently hold with Compass Bank.  It even tells me exactly how much I could save by making this switch!  This is not new functionality for Mint, but it continues to be very impressive.  Not only does it tell you about these savings, but it will also tell you how long you can expect it to take you to setup the account.  In the case of the E-trade savings account, the sign-up process would have taken about 10 minutes… very impressive.

I really like Mint.  However, I do not understand how a site that does everything so well can neglect even small analysis tools.  The only visual tools available for seeing how you are doing is a pie chart showing where your money is going by category and a bar chart that shows how your spending compares to the US average.  In my experience pie charts really are not that helpful.  I mean, I know that I’m spending more on rent than on fuel for my car.  I want to be able to see how my savings goals are going.  I want to see something that shows what kind of a difference it makes to cut back on spending in one of the categories.  Basically, I want some kind of analysis that will allow me to predict where my financial situation will be in the future (both near and far).

I’m very impressed by Mint as a tool.  I feel like the company has done a great job of making online financial tracking very easy to use.  I would love to move all of my online personal financing to Mint, but I just cannot get past the lack of analysis tools.  Maybe I am too visually oriented, but in order for me to get the most out of financial tracking, I need to be able to see where my balance stands and what kind of trends are present.  When it comes to manipulating transactions, Mint is clearly better than Buxfer.  However, Mint does not have anything that can compare to Buxfer’s balance line graph that shows your account balance over time.  Maybe it is just something that they are working on (though I have not seen any indication of this).

So there you have it, if you do not need an abundance of analysis tools, then Mint may be the tool for you.  It makes tracking your spending very easy and can even save you money with the suggested alternative accounts.  In the next post I will be wrapping up this series with a brief post about Rudder.

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