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Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint

Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint

Virtual money management has been a real game changer in the last decade. With all of our personal finance data at our fingertips, it makes total sense to find the best tool out there to get on top of this area of life. In my opinion, Mint.com is by far the best application available for anyone interested in attaining financial freedom on their own terms. Here are the top 5 reasons that this is the case:

1. Full Integration

Mint is an incredibly powerful tool in that it allows you to bring all your financial relationships together under one roof. By integrating all of your bank accounts (i.e. checking and savings), brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, store cards, loans, and practically anything else, Mint provides a solid platform to get a full picture of your financial situation and to continuously monitor all activity across that world. Long gone are the days where you need to balance your check book and go through credit card statements line by line. Mint’s automatic categorization of almost all expenses makes it super simple to go through and make minor edits to run all sorts of personal financial analysis.

In order to get the full benefit of an integrated personal finance platform like Mint, my strong suggestion would be to get in the habit of paying for everything with your credit card. While there has been much hype over the years that credit cards are dangerous and get you into trouble, with responsibility, they can be your most powerful asset. By paying for everything you can with credit cards, all transaction details get automatically ported over into Mint and roughly categorized for review at a later time (plus there are tons of other benefits like rewards points that come with using plastic!). If you find that you don’t have your credit card on you for some reason, reach for your debit card next as you will get the same information into Mint although without the rewards points. In my opinion, cash should only be used as a last resort for two reasons: it’s difficult to track spending and there are no rewards for using it.

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Oh, by the way, Mint provides seamless integration across web and mobile devices as well so all of your financial information is accessible wherever you go.

2. Trend Analysis

Once you have at least a month’s worth of data, you can start doing some informative analysis of your financial life. Here’s a general breakdown of the monthly routine that I go through:

  • Start by checking each spending activity item in the Transactions section.
  1. Modify the names of transactions noting specific information (e.g. item, place, etc.).
  2. Re-categorize any items that were not automatically filed correctly. My suggestion would be to only create subcategories for areas that will have multiple items per month.
  3. Split out any transactions that were lumped together. With cash withdrawals, I find it difficult to always account for where that went but try your best.
  4. Mark any transactions as duplicate to not include in reports. I prefer to leave out any small interest and investment activity all together.

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    • After modifying the underlying data, check out the Trends section.
    1. Start with Spending by Category using pie charts for exactly a month.
    2. Click through each category to check all Transactions are accurately filed.
    3. Pull up the Net Income report to see how your income for that month compared to spending.
    4. Compare your Net Income and each major Category for the Last Month with the Previous as well as some other custom time period (e.g. 3, 6, or 12 months).
    5. Make note of general trends and spending habits that can be planned for in your budget.

    3. Budget Setting

    Setting budgets for your monthly spending is a good habit in general. While budgets can be overly constraining, Mint does a great job of providing functionality to make budgets a helpful reference point for financial freedom. I definitely recommend using this part of Mint at least  to program some broad categories and a few subcategories especially for things like Food & Dining. My suggestion would be to only get more granular with subcategories with things like automatic payments (e.g. magazines, Netflix, Hulu, etc.) so you can quickly account for these when reviewing your budget. Caution: the “Everything Else” section conveniently hides the rest of your spending so you’ll need to be diligent about seeing how much money is slipping by your plan.

    Another helpful feature is that Mint rolls over budgets to the next month making it easy to make a few adjustments here and there over time. As part of a monthly review, definitely go through what has been carried over and project out your expected spending for the month to be prepared when things come through. After doing trend analysis and drawing some conclusions, I use the key takeaways to figure out how my budgets could be modified.

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    4. Alerts & Notifications

    On the Overview tab of Mint, there is a section called Upcoming Bills that is really useful for planning purposes. Rather than taking up mind space having to remember when all of your various bills are due each month, I highly suggest taking the time to go through and specify who needs to be paid, the amount and the approximate date for the recurring payment. Trying to figure out the best timing for paying bills in relation to income is always a bit of a hassle. Having Mint visually display spending patterns I find to be a nice feature that allows me to find ways to most efficiently manage my money. Once this information has been specified, Mint will automatically send you reminders that bills are coming due either through email and/or mobile devices. I’m also a fan of some of the other notifications that are sent out as well such as getting paid!

    5. It’s free!

    In my opinion, Mint provides a ton of value at zero cost to the user. There are a few different personal finance applications now available but they often times have a business model that requires subscription such as LearnVest. With so much to offer, I don’t see why everyone and their Mother isn’t using Mint at the least to help bring greater clarity to their financial situation.

    There are a lot of other good functions of Mint but I find some of it to be a little cumbersome and not as useful as one would imagine. For example, the investments section is rather temperamental so I prefer to stick with my actual brokerage or retirement accounts to monitor activity. Also, the goal setting module has not been something that I have not gotten in the habit of using but surely others  find this valuable.

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    As a pre-requisite for self-actualization, money is something that continuously requires our attention. However, the more freedom that we can attain in relationship to this area the more we will be able to place on our higher aspirations. For this reason, I strongly suggest implementing Mint.com in your life if you haven’t done so already!

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    Published on July 4, 2018

    Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

    Top 10 Recommendations on Money Management Apps

    Don’t want to overspend your budget, swipe your credit card too many times, and feel like a financial mess? Instead of beating yourself up for the bad financial decisions you’ve ever made, create a new plan!

    The solution is simple, save more and spend less. But, we all know it’s easier said than done.

    One problem is finding quality apps that save you time and money, and aren’t just hype.

    Luckily, there’re many great money management apps available at your fingertips. Here are 10 reliable money management apps that can help you save money, and crush debt.

    1. Personal Capital

      When was the last time you’ve tracked your net worth? Probably months ago or maybe never. Personal Capital allows you to easily track your net worth and plan for retirement.

      Here are some of its main features:

      • Sync many investment accounts, and expenses (mortgage, credit cards, etc.) in one place
      • Discover hidden fees and how much they’re affecting your retirement plan
      • Wealth management for investors requiring a long-term strategy

      With Personal you’re free to track your expenses and net worth.

      Available for: iOS and Android

      2. Mint

        If your smartphone could only install a few apps, Mint would be one of them. Why? Because Mint tracks all your balances and bills in one place.

        Here are some of its main features:

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        • Effortlessly track all your bills and balances in one dashboard
        • Categorized expenses to understand where you spend your money
        • Uncover hidden fees, and determine your investment style with sophisticated retirement tools.

        Feel at ease with managing your money by a reputable company that isn’t going anywhere.

        Available for: iOS and Android

        3. YNAB

          Everyone needs a budget, there’s no way around it. YNAB (You Need A Budget) is an easy to use app that will change the way you think about money. Their motto is to “give every dollar a job”, and you’ll quickly discover why.

          Here are some of its main features:

          • Easily sync all bank accounts in one place
          • Visually see your debt paying progress with eye-catching charts and notifications
          • Customized categories setting saving goals

          The best part about YNAB is the community that comes along with it. You can hop on the YNAB forum to receive support, listen to the YNAB Podcast or stay tuned for their weekly videos.

          Available for: iOS and Android

          4. Wealthfront

            Albert Einstein once said “compound interest is the eight wonder in the world”, and for a very good reason. The problem is, most people are scared or unwilling to learn the basics of investing. This is why Wealthfront is the perfect solution for the hands-off investors.

            Here are some of its main features:

            • Variety of investment account options including IRA, Roth IRA, and more
            • Your portfolio composed of 7 different asset classes
            • Automatically rebalanced portfolio
            • Daily tax loss harvesting

            Wealthfront is perfect for people requiring investment guidance, or prefer a hands-off solution.

            Available for: iOS and Android

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            5. Clarity Money

              If you’re staying on top of your budget but want to take your finances to the next level, Clarity Money can help you. Clarity Money helps you stay under budget and build a personalized savings plan.

              Here are some of its main features:

              • Easily cancel subscriptions with one click
              • Synchronize bank accounts fast
              • Transfer money effortlessly between different accounts

              Clarity Money isn’t an app that does it all. But, it does make transferring money and canceling subscriptions fast and efficient.

              Available for: iOS and Android

              6. Acorns

                What if there was a way to quickly gain confidence in investing your money, without too much risk? There is, and Acorns is your solution. With Acorns’s technology, you’re able to make investments as small as $5.

                Here are some of its main features:

                • Automatic contribution option
                • Customized portfolio tailored to your needs
                • Low management fees ranging from $1-$2 per month

                Stop wasting dollars on expensive coffee. Instead, invest them towards a brighter financial future.

                Available for: iOS and Android

                7. Albert

                  Do you budget by only subtracting your expenses from your income? If so, how would you discover any overpayments or extra money you could save? This is where Albert shines, and it does it all free.

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                  Here are some of its main features:

                  • Receive notifications for overpayments, hidden fees, and low balances
                  • An Automatic budget that’s built around your spending and income
                  • Easily track debt and set new financial goals

                  While Albert does offer a paid option, most of its core features are FREE. So, what better option to save?

                  Available for: iOS

                  8. Prism

                    Have you recently forgot to pay a bill because life got in the way? Prism automatically tracks your bills and syncs your bank accounts in one place.

                    Here are some of its main features:

                    • View all your account balances in one glance
                    • Bill due dates are automatically pulled and tracked
                    • Receive early reminders for upcoming bills

                    If your budget is on “fleek” but can’t seem to stay on top of your bills, Prism is your go-to app.

                    Available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon

                    9. Mvelopes

                      Remember hearing about people using envelopes to budget their money? Well, Mvelopes is the new envelope system for this generation. Easily create monthly budgets and track your saving goals.

                      Here are some of its main features:

                      • Connect unlimited bank accounts
                      • Real-time budgeting with auto transaction syncing
                      • Low monthly $4 fee or $40 annual

                      Mvelopes can help you crush debt, save more, and help you stop overspending. With its low monthly fee, it’s worth a try.

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                      Available for: iOS and Android

                      10. Wallaby

                        Most people don’t have time to track their credit card’s changing rewards and interest rates. Because of this, you need help reaping the most of your credit card’s rewards. Wallaby is the app that will help you do just that.

                        Here are some of its main features:

                        • Automatic recommendations for the best credit card to use for each transaction
                        • A friendly user interface, displaying credit cards with their corresponding images
                        • Free to use

                        If you’re using the same credit card to make your purchases, you may be leaving money on the table. Give Wallaby a try if you’re ready to maximize your credit card’s rewards.

                        Available for: iOS and Android

                        Take control of your finances and experience financial freedom

                        Picture yourself staying on budget and saving more money than you’d ever imagined.

                        It took hard work and dedication but you’d finally learned how to manage your money. You have to start taking control of your spending and saving habits.

                        You now have a list of reliable apps that can help you build better money habits, what are you waiting for?

                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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