Alan’s Take On Mint.com
Just a little while ago, Mint.com officially launched in Canada. Originally only in the United States, Mint.com is a finance tracking service offered to consumers that have a hard time manually tracking their income, expenses, and budgets. They do this by associating your Mint.com account with your bank accounts, your credit card accounts, and your loans and debts. They then take each individual transaction (income, expense), label it to the best of their knowledge, and start outlining a budget. You can also read an interview Tom did with Aaron Patzer about the Mint launch in Canada. Over the last week, I signed up for Mint and have played around with their website. Here’s how I found their service.
If you’ve ever taken the time to go over a month of expenses, and manually write down and track each individual purchase, then you know that it can be a daunting task, especially when there is more than one person involved. Recently, my wife and I sat down to look over the last few months worth of purchases, and that required a fairly high time investment to write out each expenses, categorize it, and calculate the total cost per month. Using Mint.com, this same work was done relatively accurately within minutes, and flawlessly within half an hour. It can be a huge time saver.
The service is very easy to setup. It simply asks you to find your bank, then give your login details. Then find your credit card, and add your login details. Done deal, the basics are setup, and you are good to go. It pulls your transactions and starts to track them. Of course, you can spend more time establishing budgets or going over each individual transaction, making sure that they are accurate, but again this isn’t a hard thing to do. It’s very natural and intuitive.
Mint.com has the ability to alert you if you overspend on a particular budget. It comes with standard budget areas like Groceries and Mortgage, so if you spend over what you are allotting for the month, Mint.com will email you and let you know – a handy service if you split purchases between two or more family members.
Mint also has a free iPhone app, one that is not as detailed as their web service, but is perfect for on-the-go checking of bank account balances or quickly settling budget disputes. Again, very quick and easy to set up, and smooth and intuitive once up and running.
By far, the biggest one for me, is that they didn’t have the ability to add my British Columbia and National Student Loans. These represent the majority of my debt, so being able to track them in terms of net worth is huge. This is something that I am sure a lot of Canadians have, and it is unfortunate that they do not have access to the system just yet.
Sometimes the service mislabels transactions. It looked like we had spent a lot of money on alcohol in November, but in reality Mint.com just mislabelled our fuel purchases from a “gas bar” as alcohol, not transportation costs. However, once I recognized the error, it was a quick fix.
Finally, you have the option of adding assets, like a vehicle or real estate. However, there is no objective way of finding its worth – Mint just asks you, and you tell it. Without doing outside research into the value of an asset, you are basically just guessing how much something is worth. My vehicle, for example, could be worth anywhere from $8000 or $12000, and I honestly have no way of knowing unless I attempted to sell the vehicle. Furthermore, its value is constantly depreciating, so if I put in a value (say, $12,000), then the accuracy of the value is constantly changing and becoming less and less accurate. I’m not sure if I am doing something wrong or if that is just the nature of the beast. Regardless, it offers the potential of artificially inflating your net worth.
Mint.com is definitely worth using – especially if you enjoying having a “hands off” approach to your finances. While I haven’t yet had time to fully explore all of Mint’s features and options, I can definitely say that it will become a part of my personal finances. Instead of going to two or three different websites to get a quick picture of my finances, I can quickly go to Mint.com and get an accurate estimate of my financial health.