A Step By Step Guide on Getting Starting With Mint.com (my fav budgeting software)

Anyone who has gotten one on one financial advice from me, knows one of my favorite ideas/concepts/websites/iphone apps is infact Mint.com. It was the backbone in the strategy I used to get out of debt the second time I had gotten into it. When you first sign up for it, however, it can be a little intimidating. Lucky for us, JD Roth over at Getrichslowly has written a step by step on how to get started with Mint.com:

Getting Started with Mint

On Tuesday, I wrote that I’ve decided to track my finances again.I’m doing fine financially, but after a few months of not watching my income and expenses closely, I feel a little lost. I miss the ability to know exactly where my money’s going.

I had intended to install the new desktop version of Quicken, which is what I’ve been using for years. (Before that, I used Andrew Tobias’s Managing Your Money, but that hasn’t been updated since 1995!) In the comments to Tuesday’s post, several readers asked why I don’t just use Mint. Good question. I don’t really have a good answer.

What is Mint?
Mint is a free web-based personal-finance program. Mint automagically connects with your bank accounts, your credit card accounts, and — in theory, at least — your investment accounts. Because Mint fetches data for you, there’s no tedious data entry. Mint has been around for a couple of years, but I’ve been reluctant to try it.

I haven’t tried Mint for several reasons:

  • It didn’t offer all the features I wanted, particularly the ability to track investment accounts.
  • I didn’t like the revenue model. Mint makes money by pushing new financial products on users. I’ve since realized that — duh! — that’s the same way Get Rich Slowly makes money, as well as the rest of the financial web.
  • I was loyal to the folks at Wesabe, a Mint competitor and friend to GRS. Unfortunately, Wesabe shut down earlier this year. (You can read about it here.)
  • Though I fully embrace the Internet Age, I’m still wary of giving one service access to all of my accounts.

But enough GRS readers have sung the praises of Mint over the past two years that I finally decided to give it a try. Yesterday, I set up my Mint account.

Remember: You should always read the terms of use! I know it’s a pain, but any time you enter into a legal agreement involving your money, you should read it. This is especially true when buying a home or a car, but it’s also true when signing up for an online financial tool. If it involves your money, you should read it. Here are Mint’s terms of use.

Getting Started
If you’ve signed up for any other web-based service, you know what it’s like to register for Mint. After you enter your e-mail address, your zip code, and your password, you’re ready to go.

Signing up for Mint is standard stuff.

Once you’ve registered, Mint prompts you to enter your financial accounts. You need just two pieces of information to connect to any account.

You just need two pieces of information to connect to any account.

After you supply your login info for each bank or credit card company, Mint connects to the financial institution and slurps up your recent transactions. (I was pleased when my local credit union connected without incident.)

Mint connects to the financial institution and slurps up your recent transactions.

As you set up your Mint account, you can also add loans, real estate (such as your home), vehicles, and “other” accounts. Other accounts include:

  • Cash (or debt)
  • Collectibles (such as my comic-book collection)
  • Jewelry
  • Furniture and appliances
  • And a variety of miscellaneous items

You can also set up e-mail and text alerts based on a variety of parameters. This feature seemsvery handy, especially in this age of identity theft. I keep tabs on my accounts regularly to be sure there’s no monkey business going on; Mint lets me automate that process.

Mint can alert you if your account balances get too low.

Mint also allows you the option to enter demographic information (which I did),; I’m sure this leads to better-targeted advertising!

You don’t have to set everything up at the start. You can edit your accounts whenever you want by clicking “Your Accounts” at the top of any page. Good thing, too, because as I’ll share in a moment, the set-up process wasn’t without glitches.

**Using Mint**
You make your way around Mint through a handful of tabs at the top of each page. These include the following.

The Overview section gives you a Big Picture view of your finances, including account balances and alerts. It’s meant to be your home base in Mint.

In the Transactions tab, you have access to a day-by-day list of your income and expenses. It’s here that you can view and edit each of your purchases (and deposits). Mint automatically assigns a category to each transaction. It does a fairly good job of guessing, but it’s not perfect.

For this reason, you’ll want to keep the Mint.com app on your iPhone so you can go in and edit the transactions as they come in.

Below, I went to look at recent transactions to show you how to do just that.

Initially from the home screen, I hit the “Accounts” bar, then “All Accounts” and found a transaction at Trader Joes that I wanted to edit.

photo 1

After I hit the Trader Joe’s line (towards the right edge near the actual amount shown), I get taken to another sub menu for specifically the Trader Joe’s transaction.

photo 2

Now I’m ready to hit where it says “Category: Food” and go to the final sub menu.photo 3

Here, I’m presented with all of the categories available to apply to the Trader Joe’s transaction.

Once I figure out which new category I want that transaction to be in, (“groceries”, “restaurants” etc) then I click on it and Mint will place the transaction in the right category and try to learn similar transactions to it in the future as well.

Read the rest here at GetRichSlowly.org!


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