Why I broke down and joined Mint

I haven't tracked our expenses since June.

Not to appear completely incompetent, I do check our accounts on a regular basis to verify the charges and withdrawals. But I can't tell you how much we spent on groceries in August or how much we spent on fuel in October without printing out some statements and manually doing the math.

For a long time, I dutifully downloaded our statements at the end of each month and uploaded them into Quicken on my desktop (I have an old version of Quicken). I'd go through each expense, verifying its category. The process took an hour or so, mainly because I'd have to go online to look up check payees, but I did it without fail.

Then I fell behind a month. And one month turned into two. The more I fell behind, the more I dreaded updating our accounts since I knew my procrastination meant the process would take much longer. How could I remember in October why we withdrew $40 from an ATM in August?

This month, my husband enrolled at a trade school. His schedule will change after starting school, and that will translate to a change in his salary. We're trying to figure out our best option. The first thing we needed to look at was our budget. But without some recent figures, we had no idea what we've been spending in each category.

Budgeting FAIL.

After getting those numbers the really-hard-and-no-fun way (manually), I started to think about joining Mint.

Why I Didn't Join Before

I held out for two reasons. One was security concerns. But in the comments of , Founder and CEO Aaron Patzer wrote: “You're safer on Mint than with online banking. Mint has a read-only connection to your bank; there's no money transfer in Mint.”

He also pointed out the physical security, proactive account activity alerts, and that Mint uses Yodlee on the back-end. (Yodlee has been in operation for 10 years without a major security breach.)

I was still nervous about typing in my passwords, but after reading through the security precautions on the Mint website, I decided to try it. Obviously the old method of downloading statements was not working for me, and it would be silly to pretend that was going to change.

The other reason I resisted joining Mint is that I had tried Yodlee for a few months, and the system had so many bugs it was unusable:

  • For example, I had a category set up called “personal.” I used the category for items like toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. Shortly after setting up my accounts and categorizing months of transactions, Yodlee reported that I had spent $425 in the personal category. Normally, it's under $25. When I clicked on the category to view the transactions, the system would time out. I logged into my bank accounts to verify that the $425 was incorrect (it was). No matter what I tried, the $425 wouldn't go away, and the system would not list the individual transactions.
  • Second, Yodlee had it in for my ING Direct accounts. It quit pulling account information one day, showing an error. I tried many times to get Yodlee to connect with ING Direct, even deleting the account and adding it back, but it was a no-go. I contacted customer service about these issues, but didn't receive any actual help fixing the problems.

With Yodlee misreporting my transactions and rejecting my ING Direct accounts, it was no longer a feasible option for tracking my expenses.

Why I'm Giving Mint a Chance

Despite my experience with Yodlee, I'm willing to give Mint a chance (and my fingers are crossed that the bugs have been fixed) because some of Mint's features might help me avoid what kept me from dutifully tracking my expenses, such as:

  • It's online. I can log onto Mint during my lunch break and modify transactions, if needed. Before, I'd have to do this at home, usually on the weekend, which meant I'd forget about it or avoid it.
  • It's simple. When I open Mint, the accounts are listed down the left-hand side and the budget is on the right. The budget is a bar graph showing how much I've spent in each category for the month and how much was allotted for that category. That's really all I want from my personal finance software. The detailed reports in Quicken were fun, but I didn't use them. All I want to know is how much I've spent in each budget category.
  • It has alerts. These were annoying until I took the time to tell Mint which alerts I wanted, but they can be useful. You can set up alerts for the low balances, bill reminders, credit available, unusual spending, over budget, interest rate changes, trade commission charges, bank fees, large deposits, and large purchases.

So far, I like Mint. The budget planning is exactly what I wanted. There are still some issues with my ING Direct accounts, though. When I log in, I get an error and have to enter the answers to two security questions. Inconvenient, yes, but after a few minutes my accounts do actually update, so I can deal with that.

For now, it seems like a good solution.

Do any of you Mint users experience these issues? And what kind of experiences have you had with other online personal finance software?

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Writers Coin
Writers Coin
10 years ago

You’re not the only one with the security concern: that was the single biggest obstacle they had to overcome to get a following.

I joined for a few months but eventually closed my account. It was cool, yes, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m the type of person that checks his account almost every day, so the convenience factor of seeing it all in one page wasn’t that great. Now that my wife and I have rolled up our finances and I don’t have time to be as OCD, I might reconsider.

Hope you’re enjoying it!

GC
GC
10 years ago

I’ve been using kublax.com (for uk users) for about 6 months and it is great. I found it while looking for a mint equivilent over here, and it seems to do the job much as you have described above.

Brian
Brian
10 years ago

I also had issues with my ING accounts for about a month where they would work only intermittently or not at all. I recently deleted them and added them back in and had no further problems.

Frank
Frank
10 years ago

My only issues with mint are that they constantly seem a day or two behind my bank as to when transactions have gone through. Other than that I like the big picture charts and graphs. It definitely has helped me in prioritizing where I spend my money and what I needed to cut back on. Like you I hated to have to look up every transaction and usually just wouldn’t do it. So in essence mint is alright not without flaws but ok for me.

CB
CB
10 years ago

The hardest thing for me is to rethink how I categorize my spending. Prior to hearing about Mint, I setup a general budget in Excel. I had categories that, more or less, made sense to me but I couldn’t track spending without manually inputing my transactions into the spreadsheet. So I tried Quicken. That helped but, like you, I had to download my statements from each account and then categorize them and so on. I still had the issues of categorizing my transactions into areas that made sense and I had to download and import them into Quicken. I like… Read more »

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

Love Mint! Great concept and execution. Simple (one setup and it’s pretty much done), easy to navigate (user-friendly) and gives you an overall financial snapshot (all in one place). I believe their CEO has spoken about the continued problems with ING. It’s due to their security protocols. The best times to update your data with ING is before 8AM and after 8PM. I think this is correct and that they are continuing to work with ING to correct this issue. In one since you should feel good if the only reason they can’t connect with ING is because of ING’s… Read more »

Erich
Erich
10 years ago

What I like about mint: a one stop, at-a-glance understanding of my finances. Its simple, I log in and look in the corner, and there’s my net worth. What I don’t like: improper use of basic accounting rules. By this I mean transfers between bank accounts just get added to income and expense totals. So by the time my direct deposit gets moved arouond between savings, investments and bill-pay accounts, Mint reports my monthly income as 1.8x my salary, and my expenses as .8x my salary (before spending a dime!). Another issue I have is that purchase classification still needs… Read more »

AmyMo
AmyMo
10 years ago

I’ve been using Yodlee for more than a year now after trying out Mint in beta and experiencing quite a bit of frustration. Both Yodlee and Mint have recently made improvements and changes to their user experience and I’d be tempted to try Mint again if there was an easy way to migrate my accounts. That being said, I’m generally really happy with Yodlee and I’ve even started using their bill pay service without any issues. With Yodlee I feel like the promise of “everything in one place” is really paid off, even if it isn’t as sexy looking at… Read more »

Matt
Matt
10 years ago

Unfortunately, Mint’s alerts are useless unless you log in frequently. Quicken Online’s alerts are usually better because they’re supposed to update you in real time.

Wojciech Kulicki
Wojciech Kulicki
10 years ago

I think Mint is a great starting point for anyone who wants to manage their money online. As you point out, it’s a simple and easy to understand interface, and I also love the alert features. One of the reasons I don’t use Mint regularly is because we use an envelope budget in our family, which is very hard to execute successfully in Mint, so we’ve opted for other online solutions. Speaking with friends and colleagues however, I have found that those who use it have had great success with it over other, potentially more complicated or buggy pieces of… Read more »

Josh S
Josh S
10 years ago

I was under the impression that the problems with ING and mint are because ING is throwing up security flags because a third party keeps crawling the transaction list. Plus, I don’t think they like that their customers are giving out login information either.

Mint is useful, but most times it seems like I am fighting with it to make it do what I want. Lately I’ve become disenchanted with it, and am looking to take up my own manual system.

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

Followup to the above comments. I completely agree with Erich about the mess up with transfers in Mint. I thought it was something I was doing different than anyone else but mine does the same thing. When I transfer between banks it creates lots of confusion. Secondly, Matt is right. Mint needs to update all accounts at night to send alerts out regardless of your last login. I use Yodlee and Mint together. The one specific feature I wish Mint would add is an ability that Yodlee has of pulling in other bills. Yodlee pulls in my bill/data from my… Read more »

Katharine
Katharine
10 years ago

It’s worth noting that Yodlee/Mint still has problems with ING. They are intermittant, sometimes it works for months at a time, but when it stops working its usually for at least a week.

Jackie
Jackie
10 years ago

I still haven’t tried Mint either, although I’m curious about it. Do you plan to do a follow up on how you like it after a few months? For now I just use spreadsheets that don’t do anything for me automatically except the math. It’s good for me to input my spending on a more real-time basis, although lately I keep letting stuff pile up for a few days before tackling it.

YBAWahoo
YBAWahoo
10 years ago

I love Mint…I’m just frustrated that it’s taking them so long to add my local credit union, but I understand the supply/demand aspect of this issue. The credit union pretty much serves my county, so there’s probably not a whole lot of other people requesting it to pull it up on their to-do list.

Security was a concern for me as well before I signed up but the fact that Intuit (the producers of Quicken/Quickbooks) bought them out shortly after I did sign up gave me extra confidence!

Luke
Luke
10 years ago

You’re still giving your username and password to Mint. Even though they have a read-only connection, what happens if the mint.com website is hacked and someone steals your username and password? They could sign into your bank’s website and make transactions.

I’m the creator of NeoBudget – http://www.neobudget.com – and I created an import wizard that lets you import your bank statement without needing to enter your username and password. It’s much more secure than any of the automated options out there. NeoBudget has a ton of other excellent budgeting features too.

Mrs. Money
Mrs. Money
10 years ago

I tried Mint and like it pretty well. I do need to be more strict about budgeting though. That’s my major money downfall!

Steven
Steven
10 years ago

I was looking at Mint and trying them out, but the recent acquisition by Intuit made me cancel my account. I feel Inuit to be a monopoly in personal finance software, the lack of competition will stifle innovation. I also dont like how Inuit will give you a fully functional product, then slowly pull out features in updates to make you pay for a more expensive “professional/business/investment” version. But what really burns my butt about Inuit is they will disable downloading transactions if your version of Quicken is sufficiently old as a way to make you upgrade. I feel the… Read more »

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
10 years ago

Our long-time use of ING and Quicken has given us no problems. Concerning budgeting, I’ve become convinced that the most important thing each month is our steady auto-deposits into our IRA’s, ING savings accounts and 401(k)’s. The details of our other spending categories are fairly trivial relative to that.

The next most important thing is the fact that we have zero consumer debt — in sharp contrast to my situation in the 90’s. Here are the summary tips of my permanent exit from consumer debt; hope they can help someone: http://www.diamondcutlife.org/top-five-tips-on-breaking-free-of-credit-cards/

Jacob Allred
Jacob Allred
10 years ago

The best interest rates are often offered by small banks that, in my experience, Mint/Yodlee can’t get data from. This causes Mint to provide an incomplete picture of my financial situation, which makes it fairly useless for me. I prefer to use YNAB. I store my YNAB data file in my Dropbox so my wife and I can both share our budget at home and at work. I punch in any receipts I get when I get home (takes about 2 minutes), and reconcile my many accounts about once a month (only takes about 10 minutes because 99% of the… Read more »

Steven
Steven
10 years ago

Mint is entirely useless to me unless there is a way for me to connect it to ALL my banks (very unlikely for local banks) or import transactions for the unsupported banks (this also seems unlikely). Mint is unable to connect to get access to 11/12 of my student loans, and is therefore useless in tracking my largest expense. I’m much better off manually downloading transactions and importing them into GNUCash.

April
April
10 years ago

Update: My ING accounts quit updating. Maybe it’s time for the old pencil and notebook method? Sigh.

Bart M
Bart M
10 years ago

I’ve been using Mint for about a year. I’m a big fan.

David F
David F
10 years ago

Sounds great, wish I could use Mint. I just spent 20 minutes trying to get Mint to connect with USAA and I give up. Did anyone else have similar problems?

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

Mint is excellent. Someone noted about the alerts being useless unless you log in frequently. I just have mint send me a weekly email and I log in then. I take a minute or two to review and re-categorize a purchase or two and we’re off.

For beginners or experts alike they offer advice such as check your accounts, start an emergency fund, etc. that keeps people on the right track.

Of course, the implementation is elegant, secure, and darn right awesome.

John Paul Aguiar
John Paul Aguiar
10 years ago

Nice post, I have also been wanting to join Mint, but didn’t for the same reasons you didn’t.

Nice to see that Mint is safer then my bank and I’m on that all the time.

Little House
Little House
10 years ago

Mint sounds interesting and easy to use. Though, I would hesitant to use it only because I use QuickBooks and enter my transactions daily. I also check my bank account on a daily basis as well and update everything in QuickBooks. As long as I keep this up and don’t miss any more than 3 days, I don’t spend very much time on this task. However, if Mint automatically balances a check book register in QuickBooks, I’m there! That would be a plus for me and a huge incentive to use it. I’m behind about 6 months with my bank… Read more »

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

I’d love to try Mint (despite my concerns about security), but it doesn’t look like they’ll be adding Canadian banks to their list anytime soon.

If anybody knows of a good, reliable, and useful Canadian alternative, I’d love to hear about it!

A..J. Clark
A..J. Clark
10 years ago

@ April: Mint has issues with ING: http://forums.mint.com/showthread.php?t=1646&page=33 It’s ING’s problem, not Mint’s. ING has some security protocols that they don’t like Mint (or any account aggregator) bypassing. I believe Mint’s CEO is trying to work with ING to allow Mint to work with it completely (and stably). For what its worth, my ING account fails to update about once every couple of weeks, but it is only out for a day or two. I wouldn’t write Mint off just because of the ING Problem: where else can you get a complete snapshot of your total financial picture (for free)?… Read more »

Under$1000PerMonth
Under$1000PerMonth
10 years ago

I’m surprise there is such a demand for Mint. My bank has all of the online tracking tools that Mint does and I love it.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
10 years ago

I’ve been using Wesabe, a Mint-like site, for a couple of years now and find it really helpful. It seems to have fewer of the uploading issues than Mint, but does the same job. If Mint isn’t working for you, you should try it.

Kathy B
Kathy B
10 years ago

David #24 I had similar issues with my Chevron/Texaco account. I finally deleted that account from Mint. Chevron/Texaco sent me an email stating that an outside source was trying to log on to my account. I like Mint only somewhat.

Andrew
Andrew
10 years ago

I moved my money out of ING Direct precisely because they block Mint. Now I use Ally, get a higher interest rate, and have full visibility into my money.

Oh, and I used the Bank Rates Center on this site to find Ally, so hopefully JD got a referral bonus.

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

Hate the Mint.

They refuse to fully support all the accounts for my bank despite multiple complaints from other users. Any correspondence with them about it results in a canned response directing you to read the account setup instructions.

+1 for Wesabe.

Chili
Chili
10 years ago

I used Quicken for years but in the past couple of years I’ve felt bullied by Intuit and frustrated with Quicken for trying to be more complicated than I need. I didn’t really care for MS Money and Microsoft recently announced that they are discontinuing it anyway. My accounting needs are pretty simple and so far Mint has been ok. I do have problems with my ING account. I am concerned about Intuit having bought Mint since I have come to loathe Quicken. For now Mint is fine for me. If it starts causing me any major headaches it’ll be… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
10 years ago

I was cautious like you and read everything up and down about Mint. Seems ok enough, although I’d prefer that Mint would work with the banks for a more secure solution. Perhaps using public key authentication from Mint to bank websites that only grants read-only access for transactions when entering with the key. By using public key auth your password would be kept separate and never have to be stored, so it would be much more secure. To make it even better the keys could be changed every month or so. I’m glad one of my banks took a step… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
10 years ago

I have nothing but good things to say about mint for the most part. My biggest issue with them is that they don’t support either of my credit cards, so I have to manually enter my spending on them once the payment is deposited from my savings. But for a free resource, I’d say it works pretty darn well.

Ryan
Ryan
10 years ago

Luke, Mint does not store your login information. It is stored with Yodlee and as April mentioned, they’ve been around for 10 years without a security breach. And no offense, but it’s hard to take your “concerns” seriously when you start pimping your own product in the next paragraph. Personally, I’ve never understood the security concerns with Mint. Sure, it’s one more website, but you receive sensitive things in the mail all the time. And what’s so safe about banks themselves? Every few months, you hear about how a laptop was stolen that had 2 million names, addresses, and social… Read more »

Duddes02
Duddes02
10 years ago

I really like using Mint.

However, there is a small problem on how it views my credit card payments.

If I make a $200 payment from my checking account to my credit card…somehow Mint ended up balancing the $200 payments and making it zero:

So Mint views my transactions as:

Checking Credit Card Payment Sent: -$200
Credit Card Company Payment Received: +$200
Total Credit Card Payments: $0

My budget then goes off because I budget for credit card payments. I reported this to Mint as a bug, but they haven’t responded.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Des
Des
10 years ago

I really *want* to love Mint, and have tried it several times. But, like others have said, it is useless to me if it can’t grab ALL my accounts, and it seems to have trouble with several of the institutions at which I bank.

A..J. Clark
A..J. Clark
10 years ago

Duddes02,

You aren’t supposed to budget for Credit Card Payments. The reason being is that, when you bought the stuff that was on the Credit Card, it has already been entered into Mint and Categorized. When you pay off the Credit Card, you are just accounting for those previous purchases, and ACTUALLY using the money to buy them. You aren’t spending more money.

Don’t budget for Credit Card Payments. Budget for the stuff you use the credit card to buy.

Caitlin
Caitlin
10 years ago

Yet another Canadian wishing there were an equivalent tool available for us up here in the Great White North! “The more I fell behind, the more I dreaded updating our accounts since I knew my procrastination meant the process would take much longer.” This. This is me all over, and why I can’t get ahead when it comes to this stuff. Nothing I have ever, ever tried has made it easy enough to set up and do that I’ve ever been able to stick with it. Falling behind makes me fall further behind, because I try to avoid the timesink… Read more »

John
John
10 years ago

I too don’t like inter-account transfers showing up as income/expense. I do, however, like that I have a simple, single place to view all my accounts (checking, savings, investment, retirement). One shortcoming is that it is always looking backward – no way to play what-if scenarios (e.g. If I buy a car and the payment is X, what does my financial picture look like, how does that affect cash flow?)

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

I like Mint, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s algorithms will classify random thinks like ATM withdrawls to Health/Beauty or Magazines. I now use iXpenseit on my iPhone and it’s very easy to plug in my expenses on the fly. I really do feel that I now know where my money goes, it gives you good graphing options, etc. I got tired of always fixing my ING account with Mint, life is short!

EssieJay
EssieJay
10 years ago

I tried Mint and wanted to like it, but it wasn’t for me. #20, Jacob Allred mentioned YNAB. I’ve just started using that, and I think it’s terrific budgeting program, and like that it’s about planning *before* the bills are paid and the money is spent. Granted, it isn’t free, but the customer support is _hands-down_ *fantastic*.

We’re stuck with a dial-up connection without any relief in sight, so an off-line program is much easier to maintain.

Julie
Julie
10 years ago

I’ve been using Mint for about 18 months and I really like it. It’s definitely helped me get a handle on where all my money was going, especially the little nickel and dime stuff that was escaping my budget before. I have the same problem with ING that everyone else has mentioned, but like someone upthread said, it’s really ING’s problem, not Mint’s, and my ING savings balance doesn’t change often enough that I need a daily update on it. Once or twice a month is fine. My only gripe about Mint is that I can’t add my mortgage lender… Read more »

rose
rose
10 years ago

I Like Mint, until it entirely stopped working with Chase, where I have 5 accounts and 2 credit cards. It hasn’t updated in 2 weeks. I have a years worth of information in Mint and no way to keep it updated. Sigh. Until they fix these things there is no way that I could recommend it to anyone.

John Steed
John Steed
10 years ago

April Why did you stop downloading your account transactions? Sounds like you had a good system that was working for you, but you lost a little discipline, and now that you’re a few months behind you percieve it will take too long to catch up. Maybe all you need to do is break the task down into manageable steps (do one month per night for a few nights) to get caught up, and accept that your tracking might not be perfect due to the passage of time (the perfect is the enemy of the good, as JD wrote recently). I… Read more »

Diasdiem
Diasdiem
10 years ago

Mint is pretty good, but if you do a lot of business with a credit union, you’re pretty much out of luck so far as tracking your finances with those establishments. I have a car loan through a local credit union that I’d like to keep closer track of, but Mint doesn’t support it.

Kevin M
Kevin M
10 years ago

So does Mint track investments like IRAs/401(k)s or let you add asset (car, home) or liability accounts?

I was going to upgrade to Quicken 2010 since my 2006 won’t update automatically anymore, but this might be a good alternative to try.

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