Mint.com review: 7 ways to get the most from the free budgeting tool

|
Mint.com review: 7 ways to get the most from the free budgeting tool
Team Clark is adamant that we will never write content influenced by or paid for by an advertiser. To support our work, we do make money from some links to companies and deals on our site. Learn more about our guarantee here.
Advertisement

All year long, Clark.com‘s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

Mint.com is a free, ad-supported money management tool that’s helped millions of Americans stay on budget for more than a decade.

The personal finance app is owned by Intuit, the company behind TurboTax and QuickBooks, and stands out from competitors like YNAB (You Need a Budget) and Personal Capital for its easy-to-use budgeting and bill tracking features.

What’s so great about Mint is that it brings together all of your accounts in one place to give you a snapshot of your financial life.

If you’ve been following money expert Clark Howard for a while, maybe you’ve heard him talk about how Mint’s website and mobile app can help you create and stick to a budget.

In Clark’s opinion, Mint is the best of the budgeting apps:

“Mint has stood the test of time and will help you categorize your spending in so many different ways, and so much of it is done automatically to help you get control of what you’re up to.”

Mint budgeting sample page
Mint budgeting sample page (Source: Mint.com)

I’ve personally been using Mint.com since the early days. When I was working to pay off my $86,000 mortgage in two years, I would sign in several times a week to track my earnings and spending.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that may help you get the most from Mint.com. Read on for the details…

1. Link as many accounts as you can

For Mint to give you the most accurate picture of your finances, you need to link as many bank accounts as you can, which requires providing login usernames and passwords.

That way, Mint can download and categorize your transactions, such as your credit card purchases.

“Login user name and passwords are stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption,” Mint said on its security FAQ page.

Mint also uses multi-factor authentication to protect your account. I’ll have more on that later on.

If you link your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage and other loans, Mint will automatically calculate your net worth (the sum of all your assets minus your liabilities). You can track that number from the “Accounts” section on the Overview page.

2. How to add a manual account 

Mint works with most financial institutions, but there are times when you can’t automatically link an account.

For example, I have some investments with Personal Capital — one of Mint’s competitors — and Mint told me there’s no way to link my account like I can with Vanguard and Fidelity.

The workaround is the “Other Property” feature. Here’s how to add a manual account from your computer:

  • Click the Settings tab in the top black menu bar
  • Click Property in the left sidebar
  • Click the + Add Property button
  • Select the type of property you’d like to add: “Real Estate, Vehicle, Cash or Debt, or Other” and click Next
  • Enter the requested fields then, click “Add it”

Important note: Since any of your accounts that are added manually won’t be updated automatically, you need to remember to update that information yourself when the balances change.

3. Fix transactions that are categorized incorrectly

One of the best things about Mint.com is how it pulls your spending data and categorizes your transactions, which can help you see if you’re overspending in one particular area — like groceries, home improvement or entertainment.

I cut my food spending by $1,200 last year, thanks to my budgeting tools, after noticing that I was spending too much on groceries and dining out.

Mint has hundreds of default categories, but sometimes your transactions may be categorized incorrectly. Fortunately, you can edit them in just a matter of seconds:

  1. Click the Transactions tab
  2. Click the transaction you’d like to edit
  3. Click on “Edit Details” and then you can edit the description and/or category
  4. Click I’m Done

Those steps are for one-time transactions, but what if it’s a recurring transaction? You need the Renaming Rules feature. I had to figure this one out when Mint categorized my mortgage payment incorrectly.

To fix it: Click on your transaction, select “Edit Details” and change the category, then put a check mark next to “Always rename.”

Mint's Renaming Rules feature
Mint’s Renaming Rules feature

4. You can track cash spending from the app 

If you put most of your expenses on a credit card and pay it off every month, staying on top of your budget with Mint is easy. All of those transactions are pulled in and categorized for you!

But what happens if you like to budget with cash? There’s a relatively new way to easily track those purchases with Mint.

Let’s say you go out to your favorite restaurant with co-workers and your bill is $20. You decide to pay cash instead of fooling with a credit card. When you leave the restaurant, open the Mint app or log in at home and select “Add a transaction.”

From there, just enter the details about the cash expense so that it’s reflected in the proper budget category.

How to track cash spending with Mint
How to track cash spending with Mint

5. Control alerts and notifications

When you sign up for Mint, you can expect to receive emails with bill reminders, credit score updates and general spending alerts.

These emails can be super helpful, especially if you have a history of forgetting to pay your bills, but I’ve found that the emails can be a little annoying at times. Do I really need an email every time I go $1 over my budget?

Luckily, there’s a way to control the alerts and notifications that you receive. Here’s how to do it…

From the Settings tab, click on Notifications. Make sure to click on “Change” next to “Send spending alerts” for a long list of alerts (unusual spending, over budget, bank fees, etc.) that you can adjust to your preferences.

Click on the Settings tab to adjust your notifications
Click on the Settings tab to adjust your notifications

6. Customize your Overview page to your preferences 

In recent years, I’ve really started to use Mint’s mobile app just as much as the website. It’s a great way to quickly check in on my budget while I’m on the go.

Mint’s Overview page lists your cash flow, transactions, accounts, bills, budgets, trends and even your credit score.

If you like to use Mint to monitor when your bills are due, you may want to see that information front and center. That’s why Mint makes it possible to customize your Overview page.

From the app, simply go to Settings and then Overview Settings to change the display order:

Change Overview page settings from the Mint app
Change Overview page settings from the Mint app

7. Use your fingerprint as your password 

I mentioned that Mint uses multi-factor authentication a little bit earlier. The service says you may need to provide more than just your username and password when you sign in to your account.

“Rather than just a login and password, we also notify you of account changes with data from a second source or with information only you will have, like special security questions or a code from a text message or email.”

For app users, you can either use a passcode or your fingerprint to sign in. I recently switched to the fingerprint method and it works flawlessly.

RELATED: Ask Clark: How safe is Mint.com?

Final thought 

Budgeting is essential if you’re serious about reaching your financial goals. Mint provides everything you need to pay your bills on time, create a budget, check your credit score, set money goals and track your net worth.

The best part is that Mint is 100% free — all you have to do is put up with a few credit card advertisements.

If you have trouble knowing where your money goes, and more important, how to get your spending under control, add Mint to your smartphone and take back control of your wallet,” Clark says.

Do you use Mint or another personal finance tool to stay on budget? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

More Clark.com stories you may like: 

Advertisement
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
View More Articles
  • Show Comments Hide Comments