Realtime budget overview
This web-based dashboard gives me an elegant overview of all my financial accounts in one screen. I’ve been using Mint for the past 6 months and it is marvelous. It is super friendly, quick, and illuminating. It makes me smart.
Mint will aggregate any money or spending account with online access — which is basically all financial accounts by now. In ten minutes or less I added our bank, credit cards, mortgage, cars, 401k, credit union, checking, and Etrade accounts to Mint. That’s the last input I ever had to do. From then on Mint automatically updates all the accounts, sucking in their data with the correct passwords, and integrates this diverse information into a single unified realtime snapshot of our finances. At once glance I can see where we are spending too much, or how we actually allot our income. I no longer have to hunt for my password and numbers for different accounts, say checking our bank balance, or a credit card purchase. It is much much easier, and far more pleasant, to simply log into Mint, where I can see everything. There, in clear presentation far superior to most banks, are all my accounts informing each other. One window to watch them all!
Mint is a read-only interface. There is no way to move money, or reconcile accounts, or pay bills, or calculate taxes (for now). That is also why it is safe. In fact it is probably safer than most banks because fancy algorithms at Mint similar to credit card fraud detection software will alert you when your finances show an unusual pattern. This is one of its cool features. It will gently inform you (at your choice) that say, based on your past months’ expenditures, you’ve overspent your grocery budget this month. It also makes a fairly good guess at categorizing your expenses on its own. It can then make comparisons of how your budget stacks up to other aggregate users in your area, and offer budget suggestions (which we have not followed). We rarely use cash for anything so Mint gives us a very complete picture.
Some people will not be convinced by any reasoning or proof that having a single window into your entire financial situation is safe. If you are of that type, don’t use Mint. But for the rest, who long ago realized that using credit cards online is far safer than using one in a store, Mint is a fabulous cool tool. And it is free. Available anywhere the web lives.
There are a couple of similar sites, such as Wesabe and Geezeo, which emphasize sharing budgets, sort of like a Weight Watchers for finances, but I find their interfaces far less elegant. However this niche is evolving fast, and features expand. Mint has a good head start, a winning design (I love the pie charts!), and a sizable user base, so I think it will be around for a while. (If it did disappear, no loss because it does not store any unique data.)06/22/09