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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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    Last Updated on July 4, 2019

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

    Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

    1. Coursera

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      Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

      Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

      Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

      2. Khan Academy

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        Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

        Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

        3. Open Culture Online Courses

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          If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

          Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

          4. Udemy 

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            Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

            Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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            5. Academic Earth

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              Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

              Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

              6. edX

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                Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                7. Alison

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                  Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                  It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                  8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                    Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                    ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                    9. Stanford Online

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                      Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                      Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                      10. Harvard Extension

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                        Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                        Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                        11. Open Yale Courses

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                          Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                          12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                            Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                            13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                              Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                              14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                15. Codecademy

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                                  Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                  The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                  16. Code

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                                    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                    In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                    17. University of London Podcasts

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                                      The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                      18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                        Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                        The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                        19. BBC Podcasts

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                                          For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                          Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                          20. TED-Ed

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                                            Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                            Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                            21. LessonPaths

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                                              LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                              22. Memrise

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                                                Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                  The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                  National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                  24. Fun Brain

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                                                    Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                    25. Whyville

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                                                      Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                      Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                      Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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