If you do nothing else this year, check out Mint.com. It’s a free web site that automatically pulls together your entire financial life — credit cards and bank accounts — sorts the data, and presents you with summaries without you having to lift a finger. The beautiful site, unlike other complex personal finance programs, does everything automatically.
The site launched in September as the brainchild of Aaron Patzer. His mission is to help the under-34 crowd, especially the college kids with ADD who have $21k in loans and $3k on credit cards by the time they graduate. Unlike Quicken, Mint doesn’t require data input. You don’t have to hold on to receipts, type in numbers, or sort your spending into categories. Instead, Mint automatically pulls information from your cards or bank using the same backbone technology as Bank of America, so your information is always secure, and sorts the data for you.
We tested Mint out after reading a glowing review in Fast Company. Setup took 3 minutes … we punched in an email, password, picked the names of our major banks and credit cards, put in their passwords … and were done. Mint sucked information from each of the accounts into a series of simple tabs. One web page showed spending categories. A second showed us how we could easily save $500 a year.
Mint has many cool features, such as the ability to send you a text message when your bank account is low. Its pie charts and graphs break your spending down into categories, so you can easily see if your gas and food costs are rising or falling each month. It also has a few bugs — the most obvious being it double-counts what you spend within a credit card account and what you spend from your bank to pay off the same credit card.
And yes, Mint exists to make money with ads or “savings recommendations” that refer you to new banks, but those are easily ignored.
But damn, it’s brilliant. In 2008, thanks to Mint we may never balance our checkbook again.