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I’ve never been the best one to keep track of my expenses. That might be part of the problem that led me to financial trouble… albeit not the overwhelming reason. I’ve tried before to use different methods of tracking. I bought a file cabinet. I’ve used spreadsheets. I’ve bought more than one version of Quicken. I’ve tried to budget. And like in so many other areas of my life, I start off well-intentioned, and eventually get sloppy and give up altogether.
Then I noticed something interesting… Mint.com is now available in Canada! If this means nothing to you, it should. Mint.com is a company that was bought by Intuit (makers of Quicken). They allow you to track all your financials in one easy to understand website that syncs with your banking institutions automatically to show you everything you need to make proper decisions regarding your money. Best of all… It’s free! Second best of all… there’s an iPhone app that syncs with your Mint.com account. There’s even an Android app.
So what does Mint.com actually do that you can’t already do with your online banking or Quicken software? Well, I know that Royal Bank now has free online software through their website that allows you to set up budgets and track expenses. You can add accounts from other banks into your account listing (although I’m not sure if you can add that to the budget views or not). Mint.com goes a step beyond that… I have ALL my different bank accounts as well as my Sunlife Financial retirement account, my TFSA account, my mortgage… everything… added to it. It gives me access to everything. My Canadian Tire Mastercard is there as well. Not only do I see the balance of every single account, but I also get access to the transactions. Royal Bank isn’t going to give me that stuff… especially the retirement accounts from Sunlife. I imagine that Quicken does, but then again, the last time I looked at Quicken it was somewhere around $100. Mint.com is free.
I haven’t gotten into the budget aspect yet, but I see that the program is automatically starting to build a profile of my spending habits. It sends me an email if my account balance falls below a certain point. It notifies me when my paycheque has been deposited, if I have spent an unusually large amount on something, if my banking fees are higher than projected, etc… all of these things are configurable, so you can turn them off one by one if you aren’t interested in the notifications.
Another of the interesting things is that Mint.com offers you suggestions where you could save money. These are offers from different financial institutions, and presumably part of Mint.com’s monetization strategy. I haven’t been blown away by anything that they’ve offered me, but you never know. There might be something later. They also include a section to enter your credit scores. I need to update mine, so I’m not sure what effect that has on your Mint.com profile.
If you’re concerned about security (and you should be with anything you do online that involves your bank accounts) Mint.com is no less secure than any other online banking you already do. And even if someone did gain access to you Mint.com account, they can’t actually move money from it. Mint.com gives you a total view of your financial outlook, but you can not make changes from within Mint.com. You can not transfer funds, pay bills, or modify your accounts in any way.
I’m really enjoying Mint.com… I know that it sounds weird, but I actually check my account through the day to see my networth status as it changes automatically depending on how my retirement account is doing.
I really think that it’s worth checking out. It won’t cost you anything except a little bit of time to set up your accounts.