Free Online Based Budgeting Program & Phone Application from Mint.com
It should come to no surprise to anyone that I can in some cases be considered one of the cheapest people on the planet. If you are a frequent reader, you know I agonize over things like how to get the best fuel economy, and where are the best places to buy certain items. Surprisingly enough though until only recently was I able to see my entire family's financial portfolio at a glance. Not only was it easy to setup, but it's also FREE! Anyone can take advantage of Mint.com's free service, no smart phone required.
I was browsing around one day thinking that in some cases, my Excel based budgeting sheets are just way to difficult to deal with on a day to day basis. The Mrs. and I share a few joint accounts, so it can be at times frustrating to keep track of who spent what, and where. Many years ago, my Dad used Quicken, and I even dabbled in a bit of Microsft Money at times, but nothing really seemed to fit the bill. When we first purchased our iPhones, we tried a few of the app store budgeting applications, but again, very difficult to sync up between two users. So I started researching my options and found a perfect solution!
Mint.com is a website by the same people that make the Quicken software, so I certainly trust them. The first thing I did was go to the site and register for an account. There is a simple step by step process that they walk you through and you'll be on your way to economic organization in no time flat. But what makes this setup so special you may ask? Well they give you the ability to add accounts from various banking and financial institutions. For example, if you bank with Bank of America for your primary checking account, and have BB&T for your mortgage, you can link up your online access and have everything in one simple centralized place. This does not interfere with your current online banking, and they have setup partnerships with thousands of institutions, from your investment firms, to whoever holds your old student loans.
The benefit is that you can see everything all at once. Lets say for example, my wife uses our Discover Card and pays for gas in her car. I then go to Publix and buy groceries with my check card. They will both appear as transactions on Mint. You can then setup budgets, categories, all sorts of stuff to help you keep control of your spending. You can get graphical representations of how much money you have left from category to category which you can setup. They offer email and text message alerts as well as convenient online access from any Mac or PC, not to mention smart phone applications for both iOS and Android platforms. The best part is that the wife and I both have the apps on our phones, so we can keep track of everything in real time, which helps us reduce our spending and track our expenses. They also give you the ability to "roll over" your monthly budgets, so if you spend less one month you can spend a little more next month. It's very much like the "envelope budgeting" method that many folks tend to use.
I don't believe that you can do actual banking functions like transferring money or anything like that, which is another reason why I trusted Mint's access to my financial information, it's read only access so you don't have to worry about it. We still use our regular online banking for paying bills and what not, but now we can get a quick overview. There is a really handy features that actually tells you how much you have accessible to spend on things. It calculates upcoming bills and pending transactions, to make sure you don't go over your limit.
So how is this all free? Skeptical huh? Well Mint actually makes money in a unique way. It's not traditional advertising per se, with banner ads and what not, but since Mint actually has information such as your car note, how much you have left on it, and the current interest rate, they recommend cheaper alternatives to you such as auto loans, and even mortgage refinancing from industry leaders. They ultimately get paid by the banks if you apply for these offers, which you certainly don't have to do. They do not automatically apply for you, you still have to give all the pertinent information to your new potential bank.
Definitely for a freebie, it's worth a shot. Very rarely does a free financial service come around that I actually want to use, so this is definitely an exception!