As a junior Wallet Engineer my finances were quite simple. Checking and savings accounts kept my finances tidy for the first three years at the University. I had very few transactions of money exiting my account as I had even fewer going into my account. A poor college student’s finances are not terribly interesting. All was fine, albeit a bit cumbersome, using my bank’s new fantastic online system(welcome to the internet small-town bank).
Eventually I started accumulating more accounts. I opened an account with a discount broker after my third year with $100. It was an invigorating feeling to have invested something, but majorly depressing seeing a whole 100 U.S. dollars drained from my poor college student’s bank account. A small price to pay for future financial security and freedom and a degree in Wallet Engineering(invest early, invest often! That $100 is $126.90 now!).
After four years I had a junior degree in Wallet Engineering and a nicely embossed Chemical Engineering degree I found a job. Along with that came a 401k. And then a car(used!). And then a personal ROTH IRA. My finances are still on the simple end, but I have five accounts and at least one valuable asset(my used car) which brought me to MINT.COM!
What is Mint?
MINT.COM is a free website that aggregates information from financials institutions securely. Checking, Savings, Credit Cards, Loans, Investments(401k, traditional 401K, Roth 401K, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, taxable brokerage account) are all at your fingertips. It remembers your transactions for you. It will track your budget for you and scold you if needed. Mint will keep track of goals that you set(like counting down to retirement 30 years out). Mint will show spending patterns and trends that will make you weep when you are spending $5 a day on (coffee, donuts, lottery tickets, newsstand magazines, rubber ducks) – that’s $100 a month. (I do not have a rubber duck collecting addition, it’s purely for demonstration).
How is Mint free?
Mint is free for us because it gets to offer you ‘Ways to Save’. And there are a lot of things it offers because Mint makes money when you save money on a consumer product. If you spend $9.95 to purchase a stock, Mint will suggest a broker with a lower fee. It is that simple. And of course, there is no obligation and it is not even intrusive. Imagine checking your tire pressure at the gas station and an attendant comes out and suggests new tires could save you money. Neato. Sign me up. Because it is free.
Why do I keep using Mint?
It helps to keep me honest to my budget. If you do not have a budget – make one NOW. Please. Do yourself a favor. Don’t buy that rubber duck, make a budget instead. How fun is making a budget? Much more fun than playing ‘Guess Where My Money Went” every month.
I also enjoy watching my net worth increase. It is an excellent reward.
How well does Mint track finances?
Really well. Supremely well if you consider it is free. If you buy groceries at Wal-Mart and then buy a fishing pole Mint will categorize them both as the default for Wal-Mart(shopping) unless you adjust it. If you primarily buy groceries at Wal-Mart instead of rubber ducks, you can tell Mint to default all purchases to groceries. And if you buy groceries and a few rubber ducks on the same receipt you can breakout the transaction in Mint.
This month I am overbudget on clothing – I made a huge haul at the thrift store. I am also overbudget on my restaurants which I attribute to going out while my brother visited. My television rate went up by $10 and I did not negotiate to keep the rate down. My mobile phone is zero because I paid my bill today and it has not populated yet.
You can learn an enormous amount about your personal finances if you do not fear what you will find when you take charge. Do you need that rubber duck when you have twenty? Be honest with your finances and they will return the favor. Personally I still spend too much on restaurants.