When I first heard of Mint.com back in 2012, I was intimidated. The free service puts all your finances into perspective in a digital format. You plug in your bank accounts, loans, investments, assets, debts, and anything else that has to do with your financial life. At the time I was broke as a joke, had no job, and was living off my savings and student loans. I didn’t enjoy signing in and looking at all the money going out and nothing coming in, but this was a necessary part of getting my finances in order.
Mint is a reality check for the majority of us who always seem to have the same amount of money in the bank. The cycle is never-ending. We pay for rent, bills, groceries, gas, and insurance, spend on some fun, and then assume that we’ll get another paycheck to do it all over again, month after month. Mint is an awesome FREE service that lets you see where all your money is going and hopefully inspires you to save more.
Head over to www.mint.com to set up your account. Type in an email as a username and choose a highly secure password. Your financial life is all consolidated into this one account so pick a unique password that won’t be compromised in the event another one of your accounts gets hacked like Mark Zuckerberg’s LinkedIn.
From here, it’s a breeze. You simply log in with the accounts of your banks, brokerages, student loan providers, credit cards, and whatever else you have. If you own a home, you can put this under your assets with your mortgage going towards your debt. The same goes if you own a car that you’re making payments on.
Navigating the Site
Mint is your one stop shop for all things financial. If you don’t want to deal with signing into any of those other accounts, this one aggregates all of them together. The coolest part of Mint is that you track your net worth – your assets minus your liabilities.
Assets include the cash you hold in the bank, your retirement accounts, the value of your home, the always depreciating value of your car, your stocks and bonds, and anything valuable you own. Maybe you have a sweet jewelry set or a Picasso painting worth millions. Your liabilities include all your debts from credit cards, student loans, and the money you owe your bookie for betting against the Warriors. Liabilities are all those expenses such as rent or mortgage, car payments, gas, food, clothing, utilities, cell phone bill, gym membership, and of course children. Expenses just never end so go make more money.
Oftentimes, students out of college with loans will have a negative net worth. This is demoralizing! Don’t worry though. This is a problem that 70% of students have to some degree. While others’ misfortune shouldn’t bring light to your own situation, student loans are the most “affordable” debt to have due to their low interest rates. This is a topic we’ll go over in future posts, but understand that Mint allows you to see everything you owe all in one place.
Growing up, we’re always told it’s important to set goals and write them down. Well, Mint thinks so, too. One of my goals is to pay off my student loans in the next 2 years. I inputted this goal into Mint so they automatically calculated my monthly payments. While they don’t set this up for me, I go into my account and (sadly) know to automatically debit hundreds of dollars out of my checking each month… very, very painful. As I earn more, I’ll shoot to pay it off sooner, but Mint consistently holds me accountable. Better than my mom telling me to do it 🙂
Your goals are obviously not limited to paying off your debts. You can set goals to pay for anything: vacations, a house, a car, or a big-ticket item like a new TV. Even if you put just $100 away each month, that’s $1,200 at the end of the year towards something nice for yourself. You’ll hardly notice it in the end.
What Else Can Mint Do?
In addition to all these great features, Mint shows you trends on what you spend your money on. If you exceed your budget on a category like restaurants, you can set it up to have them email you. If you choose, you can turn these off but it’s a hard truth to get a reminder that you should cut your spending.
If you are invested in the stock market, as you should be, then Mint allows you to see how your accounts are performing. Even having your one retirement account like a 401(k) is investing in the market, so feel free to check how you’re progressing. It shows a monthly view on how your 401(k) is doing against the stock market indexes, which gives you a benchmark on whether or not you should switch anything up. Like anything else, do your research to make an informed decision.
Lastly, Mint allows you to check your credit score once a month. As an adult, your grades in school no longer matter, but having excellent credit makes you an A student in the eyes of the potential lenders. Staying on top of your score is very important, especially when seeking out a loan for big life events like a down payment on a house. Mint uses Equifax, one of the three credit reporting agencies that tracks your score. The other two are TransUnion and Experian. Scores vary from each company so be sure to check every few months to see how your score has changed. Remember, responsible spending on credit cards will only boost your score.
Intuit, the giant finance software developer behind TurboTax, Quicken, and Quickbooks, clearly saw this as a valuable company when they acquired Mint back in 2009. The service is not only useful for those trying to take control of their finances, but also for those who seemingly have it down. This goes without saying, but they have a mobile app and a website (it’s 2016). Make Mint a part of your life today and you won’t regret putting a greater focus on where your money’s going!