Review of Free Online Money Management Tools: Mint.com

Review of Mint.com Online Budgeting and Account Aggregator Tool

mint.com

If you are searching for a free online money management or budgeting tool, mint.com offers a very nice interface. It’s popular for a reason, its user friendly and easy to use. I thought it went without say, but perhaps not for everyone, you have to use online banking to use Mint and all of the online budgeting tools that I review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Attractive, Interactive Charts

Attractive, Interactive Charts

Pros:

  • Easy of use, nice design
  • Easy to securely import financial information (accounts for multifactor authentication, or in other words those extra questions in your online banking)
  • Best online tool for remembering your rules for categories (Saves LOTS of time)
  • Nice charts and graphs for trending, with drill-down options for more detail
  • Great over all picture of your monthly net income and expenses
  • iPhone App

Cons:

  • Hard to account for one time or future planned expenses
  • Budget tracker color codes are misleading for recurring exact expenses
  • Budgeting tool isn’t that user friendly or helpful for sticking to a budget
  • Intrusive partnership cross-sells with big banks (etrade, scottrade, etc)

I’ve imported my financial information into Mint.com and re-categorized my expenses. Overall, it serves the basic purpose of seeing where I’m spending my money, and will be good for showing my trending. It’s a very user friendly interface, easy to use and nicely designed.

Budgeting Indicator Bars

Budgeting Indicator Bars

So far I’ve already realized quite a few things about where my money goes. I am way over budget on things that I didn’t realize like groceries. I thought we had that down to about $300 a month, but after a few Costco trips, that went down the drain. That being said, I have a hard time accounting for 1 time expenses in Mint. Its possible, but not that easy. Additionally, I am over budget on shopping by well a lot since I don’t really have a shopping budget. This will be the hardest thing to kick. I don’t really buy that much for myself anymore. But I’m always justifying something I need to buy for my toddler.

What I’m not impressed with is their way of managing one time expenses. They have a way to budget for 1 time or recurring expenses in intervals, but it doesn’t seem very realistic for my lifestyle. So, overall, I’d say that I like the design, ease of use, and simplicity of mint.com, but I feel like something’s missing. It just isn’t as ‘robust’ as I was hoping for.

Additionally, the budget tracker is nice, but it is distracting to see your budgeted categories in yellow or red when they are actually recurring exact expenses that you budget for each month. It shows that you are over budget if you have something that was a planned for large expense, but it happened to fall in a certain month. It would be pretty neat if it allowed you to adjust your budget on a monthly basis due to planned and unusual expenses, but also kept an expected budget. Or at least adjust the budget threshold percentages so that what you think is “yellow” or “red” could be set by you. As it is, you’d have to be way under budget every month to stay in the “green.”

Also, I realize that its free, so they have to make their money from advertisements and partnerships with financial companies, but its all over the place. It’s just a little too much for me. I’m all for obvious ads, or ads that aren’t totally intrusive, but when its interruptive, I get pretty annoyed. I get asked every time I click on the investments tab if I want to move my money to somewhere else. The way they say it is that they can help you save certain amounts of money by switching, but to me, its somewhat misleading that they design it to look like they’ll easily help you, but the true intention is to get you to open more bank accounts so that they earn a profit from their partnerships.
UPDATE: 8.19.10 – Mint has added goal tracking tools that are very helpful. Though for me, they can be somewhat depressing – based on the goals I believe I can retire when I’m 125 years old !

4 thoughts on “Review of Free Online Money Management Tools: Mint.com

  1. Would be great if it worked or if their “customer support” even existed. It was working for me until mid February 2011, when they overhauled things for some kind of “upgrade”. Their “customer support” (use the term loosely) responded 10 days later with a suggestion to try something I already mentioned I tried (re-entering my account info). I replied it still didn’t work; they have completely ignored me for another 2 weeks. My primary accounts haven’t updated in a MONTH. Screw Mint — I’m here to research other options.

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