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Mint Keeps Your Personal Finances So Fresh and Clean

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It used to be that tracking your money with a computer meant manually entering transactions and account balances, just as you would with the ledger at the back of your checkbook. Eventually, financial software matured enough to allow you to import your statements from some banks, as long as they were available to download in a specific format. Today, Mint automates the whole process for you, tracking your account info as you go. Along with balances and purchases, the Mint software also keeps tabs on investments, and helps you to set and achieve goals (like paying off your credit card debt).

Of course, like any service worth using these days, Mint has full-featured mobile apps that let you track and update your finances on the go. With a free app available for both iPhone and Android to complement its powerful website, Mint is the most compelling choice for personal budgeting.

Import Your Banking Accounts

mint personal finances
Once you've signed up on the clean, white-and-green site, Mint automatically imports transactions and budgets from almost any bank or financial institution. Not all of them will work flawlessly, but, chances are, if you've got an account, Mint syncs with it. And it's not just bank accounts either; credit cards, IRAs, 401(k)s, stocks, and even loans (student or other) can be pulled into Mint on a near real-time basis, allowing you to track your spending, debt and net worth.

Visualize Your Spending and Income

Of course, pulling in all of that data is nearly useless without easy navigation. Thankfully, Mint is loaded with charts and graphs that can break down your accounts by category, merchant, date -- almost any criteria imaginable. You can even track specifics by using custom categories. Want to know how much you spend each month by stopping to buy a venti from Starbucks every morning? Mint can tell you, and, through sheer embarrassment, convince you to start brewing your own coffee. [Ed. note: Our editor signed up for the service and was shocked to see that Mint immediately noted that her clothing spending habits were nearly $200 over budget, thanks to Mint's ability to search merchant keywords to see what she was spending her cash on.] You can also set budgets to ensure you're not simply throwing money away. Set a budget of $100 a month for eating out, and Mint will alert you (either through the mobile app's push notifications or through e-mail) that you're approaching or exceeding your budget for the month.

Goals and Tracking

The goal feature is the newest addition to Mint's stable, and its function is pretty straightforward. You choose something you want to achieve, whether it's paying off your debt, buying a home or saving for retirement. You then set a specific saving target, and associate it with one of your cash accounts. Mint will tell you what your monthly contribution should be in order to meet the goal by a specific date, and will tell you whether or not you're on schedule. Setting a goal to pay off debt is slightly different in that you only set a date, and Mint automatically tracks your total debt load.

Mint Mobile

mint iphone appThe mobile apps for Android and iPhone are what really makes the whole system work. You won't have access to all the pretty graphs or some of the more powerful tools -- like goals -- but you can quickly check your recent transactions, and monitor how much of your monthly budgets you've already spent. The apps also provide pop-up alerts to let you know when your bills are due or your balances are low, among other things. It's easy to forget to log-in and balance the checkbook on a regular basis, but, with alerts from the app, staying on top of your important financial information is effortless.

Mint certainly has its quirks, but its relatively hassle-free ability to track spending, income and debts across all accounts in one place is unmatched. Whether you're obsessed with budgeting or bad at budgeting, it doesn't matter. We guarantee you'll find Mint useful.

Mint.com

Mint

Tags: banking, features, finance, mint, Online banking, OnlineBanking, personal finance, PersonalFinance, switcheddownload, web

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