Whether you have no problem staying within budget or regularly feel the crippling effect of over-swiping credit cards, you can compare top financial tools online to learn how and where to cut expenses and save money.
A few sites that have recently received acclaim as top budgeting tools are Mint.com, Learnvest.com and Manilla.com. A common factor that all three share is that they are free to use and take only a couple minutes to set up and personalize.
So in order to compare the top financial tools available on the web, I surrendered my deepest, darkest financial data to each website in hopes of finding a money management tool that aligns with my financial goals.
Your Money on a Deeper Level: Mint.com Review
Since Mint.com’s early beta stages in 2007, it has partnered with most major financial institutions and service providers, making it extremely convenient to link online bank accounts for the full scope of the ins and outs of your money. Those who enjoy visuals and are looking to gain perspective across a wide range of spending categories may find Mint.com ideal.
The registration process was straightforward and user friendly. Upon logging into Mint.com, users will be sent to their account overview page, which provides a snapshot of recent updates from each major category.
The following are the features shown on the overview page:
Financial Accounts: This window provides a quick rundown of all the financial accounts that users have linked to their Mint.com accounts. As an avid online banking customer, this feature was definitely an improvement to my old habits of toggling between four different websites, just to understand how much money I have to my name.
Alerts: Users can set custom alerts on a variety of items such as recent deposits, excessive withdrawals or transactions and bill payment reminders via e-mail or text message. This function is a great way to track unusual changes within accounts as well.
Budget: The budget feature of Mint.com is one that I found to be extremely useful. All transactions between all accounts are aggregated into your most used categories like clothing and accessories, fast food, restaurants and gas.
Users can allocate budgets for each category and Mint.com tracks each budget monthly. Users who are looking for areas to cut expenses can benefit from Mint.com’s clear bar graph layout.
Goals: This feature allows users to set financial goals (e.g. pay off student loans) for a specific date. Once the goal is established, Mint.com provides users with a payment plan in order to reach goals by the deadline.
As a young professional, I found this function of Mint.com to be among my favorite features. It clearly outlines the projected monthly balance of each goal, including interest charges, so you know exactly what to expect in terms of goal expenses in the future. As you can see, I have pretty aggressive goals to become debt free.
Trends: The Mint.com trends application is the most engaging component of this financial tool. This is where spending habits are identified, organized and compared.
From the various categories that expenses fall into, purchases are further segmented into specific purchase types within the umbrella category.
For example, after clicking on “Auto & Transport,” users are brought to a more precise graph of the types of purchases within that label. Upon clicking on “Service & Parts,” you will be directed to a list with all transactions reflected in the graph.
In addition to providing visuals on monthly spending habits, Mint.com also allows users to compare how they spend against state and national averages.
One interesting fact I learned was that my Chick-fil-A purchases for the month of December were greater than the U.S. average. Uncovering interesting (or concerning) data like this is what makes the Trends feature so appealing.
These are only a reflection of the major functions Mint.com offers and depending on your level of interest or goals, there is a greater range of functionality with other features like investments, ways to save money and multiple-income settings.
Even as a regular internet user, I was hesitant to provide my sensitive financial information. However, Mint.com assures users that the site is secure, noting that they practice bank-level security measures to protect consumers from fraudulent activity.
Despite the security assurance, Mint.com may still not be suited for everyone, especially those who just want a quick and basic budget assessment.