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Web Site of the Week: December 8, 2008
Like many of us during these troubling economic times, you’re probably
refocusing your energies on tracking your family’s finances, especially
this time of year.
You might even have a nagging feeling that you’re just not doing enough
to manage your money. Fortunately, what used to a be a cumbersome and
tedious task requiring the purchase of pre-packaged software can now be
accomplished by some terrific online tools available to you for free.
If you’re looking for a simple way to track your spending, make a
budget, or follow your investments – without splashing out any dough –
then Mint.com might be just up your alley.
Getting started with Mint couldn’t be easier but you do need to hand
over the username and password to your financial institution. You can
You’re actually anonymous on Mint.com; you don’t share your name,
address, social security number or account numbers. Mint doesn’t even
know your bank account or credit card numbers. It uses only your
account login credentials for access to your account information and
does not store these credentials.
It’s easy to add accounts to your Mint dashboard, and thousands of
financial institutions are available from which to choose. In less than
five minutes total, I was looking at an extremely detailed (yet
manageable) analysis of three of my accounts, along with transaction
information, spending trends, saving suggestions, and lots more.
If you’re financial software-phobic like me, you’ll love Mint’s simple
yet comprehensive financial habits breakdown. There’s no need to reach
for a manual here – it’s all pretty basic and easy to understand.
Overview: This is your main dashboard where you can see a quick
snapshot of what your money’s been doing: recent account activity,
budget trends, any alerts, etc.
Spending Trends: This gives you a pie chart of spending, where you can
dig down within each category to see what your spending looks like.
Transactions: You can get a quick overview of all your transactions
here, filter them by individual account, search via transaction type or
just type in a search term like “Best Buy”.
Ways to Save: Mint pays the bills with sponsored offers on the “Ways to
Save” page; this is also where you’ll be offered potential moneysaving
deals, such as a higher interest rate for your savings account.
Mint Alerts: The most convenient tool that Mint offers is e-mail or SMS
alerts that can warn you if you’re about to go over your credit limit,
about to incur some fees, getting a bit low on your account, and a lot
more. This is an amazingly simple yet effective way to stay on top of
Mobile Access: You can even access your entire Mint profile from a
web-enabled cell phone. For instance, you can text “Bal” (balance) to
“MyMint” (696468), to get instant balance reports for any account
you’ve added to your Mint dashboard – and, heading into the holiday
season, this could come in especially handy.
Credit Management: Mint also offers a credit management program that
scans for better interest rates and fees in addition to information on
how to lower your current credit card debt – again, all for free.
Investment Management: You can manage all your investments – 401K,
brokerage accounts, etc. – in one easy portal with Mint (rather than
logging into one out-of-the-way site after another). Also, since Mint
automatically updates your investment information, you can stay on top
of exactly what’s going on, rather than relying on an annual update.
You are forgiven if you’re still a little wary of putting all your
personal and family finances online. To allay these concerns, you
should be aware that Mint provides bank-level data security for the
transaction information it stores.
You can save money using Mint, but you can’t transfer money. In fact,
with Mint’s automatic e-mail and SMS alerts, you can increase your
online security by learning of — and acting on — any suspicious
activity in any of your accounts more quickly.
It might also help to know that Mint has over 600,000 users and is
adding new ones at the rate of 2,000 per day. The site is led by an
experienced team that includes industry veterans from Charles Schwab,
eBay, Expedia, Intuit, PGP and other leaders in the finance, security
and software industries.
Mint’s not perfect and you should always check directly with your
financial institutions if something seems awry. With Mint, the
following relatively minor drawbacks are at least worth mentioning:
You can’t import from any other financial software (such as Quicken), and you can’t take Mint data anywhere else.
Mint also trusts your bank or other financial institution to be
completely right, there are no inherent checks and balances.
Good for keeping track, but shouldn’t be the only thing you use - always go to the source.
Can’t be used offline
Well, of course there are other sites on the Web offering similar
services. If you’re looking to do a little comparison shopping to find
the one that best suits your needs, you should check out Rudder, Geezeo, Thrive, and Wesabe.
Mint is simple to set up and gives you a detailed yet completely
understandable money analysis, with tools that can quickly help you
become more financially savvy. Credit, investments, budgets – all of
these are concepts that many of us tend to avoid, but Mint makes them
accessible using our own accounts as a springboard to a healthier
Rather than spend more money to purchase expensive financial management
software that ends up sitting unused on the shelf, Mint offers simple
yet powerful money management tools that anyone can use, no matter what
their level of financial expertise.
Contributed by Barry Myers
And be sure check out previous Web Sites of the Week:
Daily Lit: December 1, 2008
TGI Black Friday: November 24, 2008
Wee Web: November 10, 2008
Savvy Auntie: November 3, 2008
Woot.com: October 27, 2008