Today, a wide range of different personal finance apps exist. One of the most popular ones is Mint, which gives users a real-time glimpse in their finances. Individuals can link all of their accounts – from student loans to bank accounts and credit cards – to the app, and then see exactly where they stand at any given point. The app also tracks where people spend the most money to help them develop a strategy for reducing weekly expenses. Through the app, individuals can set a budget for themselves so that they receive alerts when they are nearing their spending limits.
While the app boasts a simple user interface, mastering it still takes a great deal of time. The following are some hints for getting the most out of a Mint account:
Use Mint to monitor cash transactions.
Most budgeting tools that are currently available do not allow people to monitor their cash transactions very effectively. However, Mint has a simple interface for entering these transactions and adding them to the pile of financial data. At the top of the transactions list is a button that says “+Transactions.” Clicking this button takes users to an interface for manual transaction entry. From the drop-down menu, one can choose cash, categorize it as expense or income, and enter an amount. Adding a description and category ensures that the app properly processes this information with the rest of the user’s transactions.
Mint will deduct cash expenditures from the most recent ATM withdrawal so that it is not detracted from a checking account twice. If desired, individuals can leave this feature turned off, which means manually splitting the ATM withdrawal into relevant categories. This option is ideal for people who frequently use cash that was never deposited into their account.
Use tags to improve expense tracking.
Mint will automatically categorize expenses, but individuals can use tags to keep track of even more details. For example, individuals who ascribe to the traditional belief that 20 percent of one’s income should go to financial goals, 50 percent to fixed costs, and 30 percent to flexible costs can create tags for these three categories to see how they measure up to the breakdown. Users can add tags to a transaction by choosing “Edit Details” from the transaction screen. From there, individuals click on “Edit Tags” to add, remove, or alter tags. To make the process easier, there is an “Edit Multiple” option. The Trends tab will split expenses according to tags when users choose the “By Tag” option under Spending or Income.
Analyze financial trends with built-in tools.
Most people use Mint to track their budget; however the app also lets people see how their spending has changed over time—whether over the last month, the last few months, or the last year. By choosing to sort by merchant, for example, people can see exactly where they have spent the most money over a given period. Individuals can also specify a custom time interval to examine and view the values of debts, assets, and net worth during that time.
Sorting by category is the easiest way to see financial trends. To access the information, individuals can click on “Trends” in the left menu bar. The settings at the top allow for the discussed tweaks. People can choose specific accounts or types of transactions, depending on exactly what they want to see.
Split transactions for more accurate tracking.
One of Mint’s shortcomings is that every purchase is lumped into one category. However, many stores carry items from several different categories. In a single trip to Target, for example, individuals may purchase furniture, clothing, and food, so categorizing the trip as Groceries or Shopping does not quite work. Mint has created a method, called “transaction splitting,” to overcome this issue. By clicking on “Edit Details” for the Target transaction, a menu with the Split Transaction option appears. Here, individuals can split transactions into as many as four categories by hitting the “Split Again” button. For each category, individuals need to assign a new spending amount.
Create custom budget categories to track.
While Mint has made an effort to include a number of different budget categories, individuals will likely need to make their own accurately track spending. To create a new category, users go to the Transactions menu and find a relevant post. Under the Financial category is a button labeled “Add/Edit Categories,” which allows individuals to create new categories. Then, in the Budget screen, people can create a certain budget for that category. From the “+Create a Budget” screen, individuals choose the newly created category and fill out the relevant information. Users can now give the new budget monthly rollover, alerts, and all the other benefits of Mint.
The customized categories can help people distinguish their spending in relevant ways. For example, people may want to create an “Entertainment Subscriptions” category for their Netflix and Hulu accounts and then make different categories for “eBooks” and “Mobile Games” instead of lumping all three of these expenses into one generic Entertainment heading.