Mint is free, it is relatively fast, and it is easy to use. Even with a few modest issues, I recommend using it for your budgeting process. My wife and I have been using Mint for about 5 years now, and this post shares a few thoughts on our experiences. It covers the pros and cons of using Intuit’s MINT.com to satisfy your budgeting needs.
OVERALL RECOMMENDATION FOR USING MINT
In my opinion, Mint is a great product overall. My wife and I have been using it for many years now, and we have gotten used to dealing with the frustrations that come from the points outlined in this post. Mint does the job well enough, and it provides the basics which are great for what we currently need.
PROS OF USING MINT
Primarily, we use Mint because it costs nothing, it plays well with other sites, and it provides the budgeting basics. We have learned to live with the short-comings, and now have workarounds in place to clear those hurdles.
Mint is free to use
As I have said several times: Mint is free, which in my opinion, is the single most valuable benefit they offer. I’ll go over a few pain points in this post, but the “free-ness” covers a multitude of pain.
Included in the “free” is another great perk: Mint is part of the Intuit family, which could be helpful if you also use Quickbooks or TurboTax. For me, it also adds peace of mind knowing that my data is safe-guarded by a financial juggernaut. (Of course, nothing is 100% guaranteed to be safe. Be careful with all your online access credentials!)
Mint plays relatively well with other financial sites
Over the years, I have been hard-pressed to find a site that didn’t play well with Mint. I’m sure there are some out there, but I haven’t encountered them yet. To be clear, I only use Mint for the budgeting feature and don’t rely on it to track anything else such as portfolio returns, etc. That said, strictly pulling balances and transactions, Mint has performed well enough. Anything beyond that I tend to track on my own because I simply enjoy it.
Mint offers customization in your budget categories and transactions
I really like that Mint allows users to build any degree of tags and budget categories. This helps it conform to almost any budget scenario, income frequency, and expense management. However, lots of other budgeting software offers similar levels of customization. As such, while this is a nice feature, keep in mind it is not an exclusive feature. Other services provide similar options.
In addition, Mint offers the ability to “split” a transaction out to multiple budget categories. I find this especially helpful for larger purchases (e.g. Walmart) where I have items on one receipt that exist in several places on the budget. For example, if the transaction was $100, there might be grocery, entertainment, clothing, and personal care items making up that amount. With the ability to split the single $100 transaction into multiple parts, I can properly allocate each item.
CONS OF USING MINT
It wouldn’t be a complete review without mentioning some of the pain points, and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive. Instead, my goal here is to provide a broad view of both sides for your consideration.
Mint won’t let you edit closed periods
One pain point is the lack of ability to edit close periods. Essentially, the budgets are locked after the calendar month ends. It would be nice to have the ability to adjust budget parameters after the fact in case last-minute income or expense items come up. The work-around is to carefully check your budget allocations and transaction tags on the last calendar day of the month. Make changes and updates while you can.
Even for a free site, using Mint can overwhelm with myriad advertisements
It is reasonable to see advertisements, and I appreciate how they are needed to support Intuit and to keep Mint free. However, in my opinion, they can be a bit much, and constantly having to close the ads in order to get a clear and clean screen is a hassle. Additionally, the flavor of the site can feel sales-oriented at times. For example, the site looks for full profile information so that it can better market products to your profile. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are looking for financial products. However, my preference would be less of a marketing barrage.
Loading errors and tagging errors
This is a big one for me, and I hope Mint can change this at some point. Occasionally, when tagging pending transactions to the proper budget allocation, the tags reset after logging out. I have not been able to identify a consistent reason for this. Additionally, Mint will try to “auto tag” some transactions which can lead to transactions showing up in the wrong budget. My workaround has been to assign a generic tag to all pending transactions (e.g. “Uncategorized”) so that I can come back to those items later, after the transaction fully posts, and assign the proper budget category tag. I also recommend scanning by budget category so you can make sure the transactions make sense and are properly tagged.
Another point to be careful of is the duplication of transactions. For example, I first encountered this when I inadvertently re-loaded all my transactions from my original checking account. This happened when I opened a new account with the same bank. When I loaded the new account, Mint also re-loaded all the transactions from the original account. As a work-around, for cases when you need to load a new account for the same bank, I suggest taking note of balances and budgets before loading the new account.
TIPS FOR NEW USERS USING MINT
Save yourself a little pain, and take a look at these suggestions as you setup Mint for the first time. Hopefully, they will enhance your experience!
Take your time
If you are brand-new to Mint, take your time loading all of your financial information. Try to avoid the mistakes I’ve made! Go slow, and give the system a chance to refresh after loading your transactions. I would also make sure to give the system a chance to fully load after logging-in (this status shows at the bottom of the screen when you log-in).
Make Mint work for you
Mint offers users a lot of room to create custom tags. I really like this feature, and was able to adjust the default settings to meet my needs. As an example, I started budgeting with excel and refined that spreadsheet over time. From excel, I moved into Mint using the same tags as I had been for my spreadsheet. As such, because I was already comfortable with the tagging and category structures, the transition was easier.
Keep hammering away! Pace yourself, and stay sane
Especially at the beginning, I recommend keeping up with transactions as they post. For me, it worked well to do this at the end of the week, on Friday. This also helps stay on-point with your pro-forma budget! Beyond that, it also keeps you sane. This is important, especially if you are not budget-inclined. All that said, try setting a regular day each week to monitor your budget via Mint and also make sure to take extra time at the beginning and end of each month.
The other point I’ll make is to watch your pending transactions. This is covered in a previous portion, but I want to underscore that point again here. I highly recommend tagging pending transactions so you don’t lose sight of them after they change to posted status. Effectively, it provides a nice starting point each time you log in.
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