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No matter how well we’re doing, we all can stand to spend a little more time considering where our money goes. Especially now when many people don’t even use cash and we can make impulse purchases by clicking a mouse or tapping on our phone, we ought to know exactly how much we have in our virtual coffers. Mint.com, a online-based personal finance management service, makes it easy to track your expenses, and the universal iOS app makes their free service all that more convenient. The main advantage of using Mint is the convenience of having all your information in one neat package. To use the service, you first have to sign up with Mint by entering details from the accounts (bank, student and auto loans, mortgages, investments) you wish to be tracked. Ideally, you’ll put in every account you hold so Mint produces an accurate analysis of your finances. Upon launching the app and logging in, you’re greeted with an overview of your accounts, cash flow, budget status. Mint also tallies your assets and credits to calculate your total net worth. It’s a bit unnerving seeing your value represented down to the cent, but it’s useful information nonetheless.
Mint pulls spending data from your accounts, putting together a handy feature that shows where your money is going. Cash flow breaks down your purchases into spending categories, such as Food & Dining, Shopping, and Entertainment. You can also sort your spending by merchant. It can be disheartening to learn that you’ve spend over $20 on fast food in the past week (and by you I mean me). Now I know to cut back when I feel the hunger pangs and go to my cupboards instead. This is just one example of how Mint keeps me in check, by telling me something I should have known. This is simple and uncluttered app, and it’s a breeze to use. All pertinent information are a few taps away. You can even update your budgets real-time by manually inputting cash purchases. Users will still have to log on to Mint.com through a browser do any real heavy lifting. Monthly budgets and goals have to be set on the online interface; the app only allows you to the ones you’ve already created. Mint also support bill reminders, but these features and others can only be accessed through the main site itself. If you haven’t already signed up with Mint because you hold reservations about giving over your personal information, the new app will do little to change your mind. Mint does boast security measures on the level of bank sites, including 128-bit SSL encryption, and their credibility is buoyed by their acquisition by Intuit, the makers of the established financial software such as Quicken and TurboTax. The app also doesn’t store any of your account info on your device; the service is “read-only” in that you can’t actually move funds around, only view them. Finally, the app allows you to set a four digit passcode, so in the event you lose your device, your information remains confidential. While I can’t assure you there won’t be a hacker apocalypse upcoming, I can say I feel comfortable with Mint handling my information.
I did run into some hiccups with Mint.com. I’m a recent college graduate, so I’ve been scrambling to keep tabs on my three different student loan providers. Though most big banks and institutions work seamlessly with Mint, not all have signed on with the service. One of my loan providers, ECSI, flat out said they didn’t want their user’s information being accessed by a third-party aggregator. There are moderated discussion threads regarding this issue and many others on the website, and a representative from Mint has posted that they are working with ECSI to iron out their issues with with one another. I’m reassured by the fact that Mint is working on fixing things, but be aware the service is not yet comprehensive. The quality of your experience with Mint will depend on how you use it. Commit to a savings goal better and the app will help keep your eyes on the prize. Tell yourself you’re going start budgeting and the app will present that budget to you in a legible and attractive package. Of course, the onus is still on you to do the hard part, namely, deciding how to spend your money. The mobile app in its current form does not replace the actual Mint.com site. Right now, the app serves as a companion to the full service by allowing you to keep track of your money on the go. Whether future updates will untether users by making all features available remains to be seen. Still, the utility of this app makes itself apparent once you begin to make positive changes to your spending habits. So the next time you’re in line at the checkout counter and you’re eyeing that impulse buy, pull up the Mint.com app and be sure you’re making the right decision. AppPicker Rating: 3 / 5 Stars Pick It Up in the App Store: Mint.com Personal Finance Other apps by Mint.com