Is Mint useful?


Now that thriftiness is hip, everyone's talking about personal finance software tools like Mint, Wesabe, Green Sherpa, and You Need A Budget (YNAB). These programs allow you to see all your accounts in one place and track your spending.

I signed up for Mint a long time ago, but was dissatisfied. It misclassified almost all my expenses; my gym membership, for example, was wishfully labeled "entertainment." The special offers were useless and based on incorrect information. And Mint emails me "low balance" updates whenever my bank account drops below a certain level—but the alerts usually arrive three days late.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to learn how much we spend on groceries each month, so I decided to get serious about using Mint. I spent about two hours going through our expenses from the last six months on Mint, and re-categorizing everything that wasn't properly labeled. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of our grocery purchases were already labeled correctly, and making new categories was relatively easy.

But there are still flaws. My husband and I each have our own personal bank accounts, and we have a joint account as well. If we load his bank account information into Mint, our joint account is counted twice. So I was thrilled to discover that we only spend $350 a month on groceries, until I realized that, in fact, none of his expenditures were counted. And even if his bank account was loaded, Mint wouldn't be that effective because my husband likes to pay for things in cash.

Mint is still useful for some things; recently, I used it to calculate how much I spend on Pilates (answer: an embarrassingly large amount). But that's the only real benefit I've seen from it so far. I'm a pretty aggressive budgeter, and I pay more attention to personal finance than most people. So if Mint isn't useful for me, who is it useful for? Only truly hard core budgeters, I think. It's possible that another budgeting software program is better than Mint, but I doubt I will switch because I've spent so many hours on my Mint account already.

Do you use Mint, Wesabe, or a similar program? Do you like it?

Last updated: Mar 11, 2009

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