How Mint Can Revolutionize Your Budget

How Mint Can Revolutionize Your Budget

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Last updated on September 30, 2022 Comments: 20

When it comes to budgeting, life has never been easier. Today, you don’t have to revert to an old-fashioned spreadsheet or pen and paper. (But go for it, if that’s your jam!) Instead, budgeters have access to a huge variety of apps and websites, including one of my favorites: Mint.com.

Mint has been in the personal finance game for a while. And it’s created by Intuit, the same company that created Quicken. In fact, it’s sort of like a baby Quicken. It’s less complicated, but it works in much the same way, and the interfaces are somewhat similar.

First, we’ll run through how Mint works and what it offers. Then, we’ll talk about the pros and cons. Think this is the budgeting tool for you? Read on to find out.

What Mint.com Has to Offer

The Setup

When you set up your Mint.com account, it will ask you if you want to link to your bank accounts. To make the most of the interface, it’s best to link at least to your primary checking account. But, honestly, the more accounts you link it to, the better.

Mint.com

And don’t worry. Mint’s parent company, Intuit, has been keeping people’s financial data safe for years. It uses bank-level security and encryption to pull in your transaction data while keeping your information safe.

The longer Mint is around, the more accounts and types of accounts it can connect with. Several years ago when I first started using the tool, I wasn’t able to connect to some of my smaller bank accounts. But now, I can connect to all my bank accounts and credit cards, as well as most of my utilities companies.

add a provider on Mint

Wait? Utilities companies? Why would you need to add those to a budgeting tool? We’ll talk about it more in a moment. But for now, know that Mint offer a slick bill-paying service if you connect these accounts, too.

When it’s all said and done, setting up with Mint can take a while. But that’s not because the process is laborious. It’s actually quite smooth with great prompts along the way. But it can take a while to plug in all of your banking and account information.

Overview

Once you get set up, Mint will take you to an Overview screen. This will include an overview of your account balances, any alerts or offers on the table, and an overview of your budget. I don’t tend to spend much time here, but it’s a handy screen that gives you a good idea of where you stand with your money.

Dashboard overview Mint

Transactions

This is the core of Mint. This screen is where you refresh your transactions from all of your accounts, and then categorize them accordingly. Mint does a halfway decent job of categorizing basic transactions from obvious vendors.

But, for instance, my plethora of Amazon transactions all come in as “Shopping.” In actuality, some of these transactions fall into my grocery budget, others into my kids’ stuff budget, and still others into my personal budget. So I have to go to the transactions screen to assign them.

If you’re like me, nearly every Amazon order goes to multiple budget categories. Luckily, you can use Mint to split the transactions as many times as you like. So that $50 Amazon order can be split $10 to my grocery budget, $20 to my kids’ budget, $10 to my pet budget, and $20 to my personal budget. Easy peasy.

The only caveat here is that you can’t split transactions until they actually clear. Uncleared transactions will still show up, but I don’t bother to categorize them until they show up as cleared. Otherwise you can’t split them, and sometimes the system gets glitchy with categories when transactions go from uncleared to cleared.

You can also add transactions manually here if you don’t have one of your accounts connected but want to count its spending towards your budget.

Mint add a transaction

On the transactions screen, you can also sort transactions by account or account type. Or you can look at all of your transactions at once, sorted by most recent first.

Credit Score

This is a relatively new feature of Mint. But now you can get a free credit score with your free account. It’s based on your Equifax credit report and gets updated monthly. Like many credit scoring tools available online today, this one will let you see what factors are influencing your score.

Bills

If you want an all-in-one financial dashboard, Mint.com is where it’s at. You can use the bills tab to see your bills due in the month, your available cash, and your available credit. It will also give you a timeline of when your bills are due, including the amount due.

Mint pay your bills

When you hook up your bills to Mint, you can pay them through Mint, if you’d prefer. Or you can simply add your bills and due dates to the calendar. Mint can email you reminders to pay your bills before the due date. And having them in the calendar mode lets you track your cash flow as you go.

Budgets

This is where Mint.com really shines, in my opinion. On this tab, you’ll find your core budgeting setup.

When you first get into Mint, you’ll need to go here to set up your budget categories. You can create custom categories as broad or granular as you’d like. Want a general “Food” category? Go for it! Want to track dining out separately from groceries? You can do that, too. You could even break down your budget categories between coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets.

Bottom line: You’re in complete control of what your budget looks like.

Once you set up the budget, you can assign transactions to various budget categories. And, again, you can split a single transaction between multiple budget categories if you need to.

Mint.com budgets

Then, the budget screen will start to get colorful. If you’ve still got money left in a category, that category’s bar will be green. If you get close to the limit, it’ll turn yellow. And if you hit the limit or go over it, your bar will turn red.

The budget screen can help you easily create a zero-based budget. You’ll start by putting in your estimated income for the month. Then, as you create your budget categories and assign amounts to them, you’ll see what you have left of your income.

While you can’t budget for future months, you can budget out into the future with “Every Few Months” or “Once” transactions.

Let’s say you want to create a budget for your twice-a-year trip to visit family. You want to budget $500 every six months. So you’ll choose a category, click “Every Few Months,” and then tell Mint when the next event will happen. It’ll automatically divvy up your budget among the months leading up to that one. So you’ll basically set aside money each month until you’re ready to spend it.

The “Once” option is similar, except that it’s saving up for a one-time transaction.

Once you get going with Mint, this screen is a great at-a-glance for where you’re at with your monthly spending. At first, you’ll find that you need to recategorize a lot of transactions so that your budget lines show correctly. But over time, Mint will learn where transactions from certain vendors belong, getting more and more accurate.

I’ve found that this visual aspect of Mint is particularly helpful for people like my husband. Managing money together used to be tough. But giving him an at-a-glance view of where we stand on our finances helps him get on board more easily.

Goals

This section of Mint is one that was a little rough to start out with, but it’s gotten better. Basically, you can set goals for just about anything.

You can tie debt pay-off goals to certain debt accounts, like your credit cards. Mint will help you calculate how long it will take you to pay off certain debts, or all of your credit card debts, for instance.

Mint.com goals

The other option is a savings goal. You’ll need to tie this goal to a specific savings account. Mint will then track your savings goals as you put money into those accounts.

Goals and budgets can still be a little tough working together. For instance, your credit card payments can sometimes get double-counted. But this is smoothing out so that goals plus budgets gives you a holistic view of your spending and saving.

Trends

Once you get a few months’ worth of transactions under your belt, this is a really helpful tab. You can basically slice and dice your spending data by month, quarter, or year. You can look at a breakdown of your spending by merchant, by category, or by tag. Or you can look at how your income has changed over time.

Trends is a great option if you’re trying to figure out where to cut back on your spending. It’s especially helpful if your goal is to break your spending down into something like a 50-30-20 budget. Just categorize your expenses accordingly (savings, wants, and needs), and then check out your trends over time to see if you’re hitting your targets.

Investments

As I noted earlier, Mint is sort of like a mini version of Quicken. But where Quicken tends to focus on investments with a budgeting piece, Mint is the opposite. So it focuses more on everyday budgeting, but it also includes an investing piece.

The investing section will let you see where your investments are and track their value over time. You can hook up your investing accounts directly with Mint, just like you can with your other accounts. It’ll break down your performance, allocation, and value over time.

Mint will make some investing recommendations if you’d like. But I’d trust it more as a tool for tracking. If you’re interested in more in-depth investment tracking, consider using Personal Capital, instead.

Ways to Save

This tab is one of the ways this free budgeting tool makes money. If lets you check out offers for credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and even insurance. The tool isn’t as personalized as some others, like those offered by Credit Karma. But it’s a helpful option if you’re already in the market for a financial product.

Alternatives to Mint

Mint is a great budgeting app, but it’s not the only one on the market. Here are some great alternatives to Mint:

PocketSmith

This app is great if you want to forecast your finances into the future–way into the future. PocketSmith allows you to craft what-if-scenarios that look 30 years down the road. This is great if you need help tweaking (or massively overhauling) your behavior so you don’t wind up broke at retirement.

It also acts as a typical financial app that analyzes your spending and savings. Just like Mint, PocketSmith brings all your accounts together in one app. This makes understanding your finances a breeze. The only downside – the free version is limited, meaning you’ll have to enter transactions manually. Paid versions update automatically and start at $7.50/month (when paid annually) and go up to $19.95/month.

Read our full review of PocketSmith.

Personal Capital

PersonalCapital_210x100_new

Another personal finance app is Personal Capital Financial Advisory Dashboard. This app lets you track all your financial information, but it’s distinguishing feature is that it offers investment advising. You’ll need to get the paid version for personal advising, but the free version still has some great investing tools.

With the free version, you can still access the Investment Checkup (a tool that lets you know if your investment allocation is appropriate for your current age, projected retirement age, and risk tolerance), the retirement planner (which tells you if your current savings will get you to your retirement goals), and 401(k) fee analyzer (which tells you when you are overpaying in pesky fees).

Read our full review of Personal Capital.

MoneyPatrol

A newer entrant to the field of personal finance apps is MoneyPatrol. Like the other apps, MoneyPatrol allows you an overview of your finances by aggregating all your accounts. The app provides alerts and insights–letting you know about upcoming expenses, when your paycheck hits your bank account, and more.

Of course, MoneyPatrol allows users to create and manage budgets. It also helps you monitor your investments, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and brokerage accounts. If you want to grant access for another user–a spouse or significant other–MoneyPatrol allows you to do that, which is a great feature. That user won’t be able to see specifics, add or remove accounts, and you can revoke their access at any time. The app costs $84/year and comes with a free 15-day trial.

Read our full review of MoneyPatrol.

Empower

Empower Logo 210x100Empower is a newer app in the personal finance space. It was created by a former partner at Sequoia Capital to help empower people to better understand their finances. The app helps users save money and track their spending with a user-friendly design.

The app sells itself on helping users save more. One way it does this is through automation–giving users the ability to set up a recurring savings pattern. However, Empower recognizes that despite best efforts to save, life happens and will give you access to up to $250 Cash Advance.^ Plus, get early paycheck deposit* and up to 10% cashback.** 

The app is free for the first 14 days and then costs $8/month for access to the full suite of money management features.

Read our full review of Empower.

Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.

Note

^ Eligibility requirements apply.
* Timing may vary by employer.
** Deals will vary and must be selected in the app.

* Banking services for new accounts provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.

CountAbout

This cloud-based budgeting app is big on data. Of course, CountAbout does the standard personal finance app stuff, like aggregating bank account data and allowing you to set budgets. But it also lets you dig deep into your data: you can run reports on almost anything in the platform, making it easy to customize it if you have unique spending habits.

CountAbout has a free 15-day trial. The basic service costs $9.99/year but doesn’t automatically import transactions. A premium membership–including automatically importing your transactions–costs $39.99/year. One additional thing that comes with this paid app – no annoying advertisements.

If you’ve used Quicken or Mint in the past, it’s easy to import that data to CountAbout.

Read our full review of CountAbout.

The Bottom Line on Mint.com

As I said earlier in this review, I’ve used Mint for years. I’ve tried other budgeting tools sometimes, but you really can’t beat Mint’s interface and ease of use. With that said, it does have a few drawbacks, which include:

  • Inability to plan forward. Being able to plan long-term is important to me. So it frustrates me that you can’t set up a budget for the next month in Mint. You can’t get to that month’s budget screen until the first of the month, actually.
  • Goals can still get squirrely. Like I said, these seem to be better than they were when Mint first rolled out Goals years ago. But sometimes it’s still hard to get a transaction to count for a goal when it should count for a budget and vise versa.
  • Too detailed for some. Mint may not be the right choice for you if you aren’t interested in tracking every aspect of your budget. Even though it syncs to your bank accounts, assigning categories to every transaction can get time-consuming. You could always mitigate this by creating only a couple of broad categories, if you decided to do this.

Even with its drawbacks, Mint is still one of the best budgeting tools. It’s worth checking out, whether you’re an experienced zero-based budgeter or are just starting to track what you spend.

Article comments

20 comments
Nicolas Mory says:

I used Mint religiously up until I lost all my account history information and had al my accounts duplicated for the third time. It seems it has become unstable and customer service was really unhelpful. I also realized I had a similar account management tool built into my personal bank which I decided to go with and good old spreadsheets. Being self-employed, categorizing transactions and setting budgets was my main goal and I realized I could accomplish this without third-party software. I wouldn’t recommend Mint to anyone who is serious about managing their finances.

Fred Paprin says:

Does Intuit’s Mint share your personal finances (like bank balances) with its credit reporting agency partner Equifax? I’m feeling like I should delete my whole Mint App account as I worried my personal info is now further exposed to be being hacked or used against me by Equifax! Especially since the reporting agencies are purposefully being unclear as to how my credit score is calculated…the whole thing seems like a rigged deal…

Rhwilder says:

Try to cancel your account. They make it virtually impossible. Awful customer service, you cannot speak to a person and you feel as thought they are playing a game by given you the runaround.

Bradley R Haynes. 52 Dees Lane Munford, Al says:

Unable to make full balance of $824.76 to my account ending…..9763 PNC Credit Card. My account has been turned over to The National Enterprise Systems, NES account 29487539 PNC 026

Sarwan Aggarwal says:

Can I import quicken bank account data?

J Mike Lane says:

I have been using Mint for about 6 months. I like it, but it has bug that I have reported, and Intuit has not responded. I have a positive balance on a credit card due to a cancelled AirBnB reservation, but Mint shows the amount as a negative.

Mike says:

Mint is great.
Just confirm you can log into the website and then recreate the account… that usually does it for me.

teri says:

I was a mint cheerleader – but it hasnt downloaded transactions correctly in 5 months & customer service is non-responsive – i wouldnt recommend them

Robert says:

Identical experience. Nearly impossible to contact a live representative. When you do get through you get runaround ‘our data team is working on it’. Yeah, right. For 30 days?

Frank3 says:

Same experience here. Early adopter before Mint/QB joined forces and got slowly better each year. Starting approx 3 months ago I can no longer trust mint enough for the whole purpose it serves…helping me meet my budgets. I have 300+ transactions across my variety of accounts each month, and auditing the last few i was missing approx a dozen or more each month and often accounted for $500 or more “lost”. Lost of course means making you think you have more to spend. Can cause serious trouble and I realized how I’d made mint a crutch. Time to drop it and go back to tride and true excel and “owned” static reports.

james pierson says:

Great article offers more info than Mint. But still I do not know how will I account for bills paid with a bank account that is not tied with Mint in my Mint budget? Will I need to input it manually? every month?

Jeff says:

Has not updated in about a month thru app

Donna says:

I have used MINT for years and until the past 6 months had a good experience. However, I am currently having an issue with the way the program is giving me error messages when I try to amend a transaction, such as “CORRECTING A CATEGORY, CHECK DESCRIPTION”. I have contacted MINT several times and given a case file and they agreed it is a “KNOWN ISSUE”. It has been into 6 months and I still can’t change certain transactions to the correct information. After asking them several times for help, they just say “yes, its been looked into”. Its hard to complain about a FREE program, but I am getting ready to change to another one as this doesn’t provide me with the features I want to use.

teri says:

same here – I’ve used mint for years – loved it and recommended it – but the last 6 months nothing works correctly – its basically uselesss now and customer service is non-responsive.

Diego A says:

Btw.. you blurred out your income and total projected expense… but missed it on the left side summary pane ?

Josh Esq. says:

This is a great review. Thanks for providing such a detailed explanation of the features. Very much appreciated.

Clint says:

1. Pretty sure they don’t offer the bill pay feature any longer (for nearly a year at least)
2. They haven’t been partnered with Equifax in quite some time either they have been with TransUnion.

Bob O says:

can I get all of my quicken data into mint?

Dave says:

Enjoyed the article, thank you.
Only little thing… Hate to say but under transactions you say that 50 Amazon can be split 10,20,10,20….thats 60?