Want to take control of your money? Get fresh, get Mint!

Ever since I got my first paycheck I have been tracking where my money went. It started with the good old excel spreadsheet, the first one that I created relied on manual inputs. I have a fascination for numbers, charts and statistics so despite the pain of having to manually key in my income and expense I did persist with my tracking spreadsheet.  After a few months the lure of more advanced charts and excel macros got to me and I ended up downloading a template. This made my tracking sheet look good, but I still had to enter the data manually.
Later I realized that instead of manually keying the data I could download the monthly statements from my financial institutions and have an excel macro make sense of the data. This was a great improvement over the first spreadsheet, but it always needed some manual correction. On top of it the fact that each of my accounts had a different statement date made it kind of a weekly task for me, and I wasn’t too pleased with it.
Then came Quicken, it was the first (and only one till now) personal budgeting software which I paid for. It did prove worthy of every penny that I invested in it. It could fetch data from all my accounts automatically on a daily basis, help me create detailed budgets, project future balances based on trends, consolidate all my investment accounts and so much more. I thought this was the tool that I was always looking for; tracking my finances was so much easier with Quicken. But it did have a few problems: sometimes it would not fetch data from a few accounts, sometimes it lost the past transactions, sometimes it would not be able to differentiate between a transfer & a payment. All this was trivial but I expected more from a paid service.
After using Quicken for a year I started researching for a better tool. By this time all major banks had added a new feature in their online banking, you could get a consolidated view of all your accounts at one place within your online banking page. But it was very basic, did not have detailed budgeting options, trends, charts or predictions. This is when I accidentally stumbled upon Mint and since that date I haven’t looked back.
I think Mint is the best personal budgeting application out there. It’s all online, the signup process is a breeze, they cover almost all the financial institutions in US and have a sophisticated categorization and matching algorithm which makes managing money so much easier. The way they depict the trends with the use of charts is so cool and the budgeting is not primitive either. In two years I have never had a problem with it.  To top it, they have apps for your smartphone that is equally amazing. Although it doesn’t offer all the online features it does everything that you would probably have wanted to do on your phone.
Some people are concerned about the security about such a service. Mint is owned by Intuit now, it’s a read only service, you can register anonymously without providing personal information and they use the latest security protocols that leading banks use now.  So in my opinion they are no less secure than these institutions. If you feel good about the security of your online banking I bet you should feel safe with Mint.
If you are looking forward to a better way to manage and track your money, do give it a shot. I am sure you will not regret it. And what’s best …it’s free!
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