Budgeting. In the wake of the “treat yo self” phenomena, many of us have reservations about the word. Truthfully, budgeting is simply a different form of self-care — but not quite the same as splurging on that lipstick, or getting another round of celebratory mimosas. As much as every functioning adult should be equipped with the knowledge, budgeting is far less fun than spending, I totally get it. But smartphone apps like Mint literally allow you to access your finances as often as you would your Instagram. So why not?
Mint, owned by Intuit (responsible for Quicken and TurboTax) is a sleek and friendly option for virtually anyone who is looking to keep their financial activities in one place. Did I mention it’s free? Its apps like these, free from manual entries in spreadsheets and the dread of checking account balances, that have made budgeting fun for me. Beyond being able to set customizable budgets and savings goals, this powerful little app cultivates a good, stress-free habit. So, here are 10 must use features to maximize your Mint budgeting experience. Happy money saving!
To get the most out of Mint, you’ll need to access your account through both the smartphone app and online. Online, you’ll be able to set up email notifications that are the most useful to you—not only can you customize your account to get financial summary emails and tips, but spending alerts about unusual spending, low balance, bank fees or anything else you care about. Budgeting should be a lifestyle, not a constant burden or fear, and alerts help with that. Overspending alerts are definitely my favorite (although they’re not the most fun to get).
Tags are probably the most underrated feature of Mint, only because it’s so easy to overlook. Unlike categories, tags allow you to group your activities under multiple conditions so even if they are categorically distinct (food expenses, travel, ATM withdrawal, etc), you can view them as one spending—this comes in handy for big moments like vacation or moving, when money slips away quickly! To tag your activities, go to “Transactions” on the web app (tag creating is only through there) and click on a transaction. Once that transaction is bolded in grey, a little “Edit details” note will appear underneath it. Click on it to edit your tags.
3. Net Worth
Mint gives you the ego boost you didn’t know you needed. Although technically not budgeting, knowing your net worth can give you a bigger picture that goes beyond saving pennies and fighting the daily urge to get that second coffee. This nifty feature is only viewable online, OR at the bottom of your weekly spending emails —go to “Overview” and scroll down to the bottom of the “Accounts” portion on the left side to view online. It will list your net worth in small, bold writing.
4. Splitting Transactions
This feature is what sets Mint apart from a basic budgeting app. Say you buy numerous, random things at a drugstore. If you click on the transaction under the “Transaction” tab and open the details window, you’ll see “split” in the top left corner or a lane split icon online. This will allow you to allocate specific amounts to specific categories so you know the exact details of your spending patterns—after all, going into a drugstore to buy something specific is very different from going into the same store “just to browse” and coming out with five items you didn’t think you “needed”.
5. Record Cash Transactions
Although it’s been statistically proven we spend less when we use cash over plastic, it’s not as convenient to track digitally as your debit and credit spending. With that being said, you have two options using Mint: you can manually input your transactions, or split your ATM withdrawals to identify and categorize appropriately.
6. Setting up transaction rules
Automating your financial practices on Mint make it infinitely more enjoyable—and setting up transaction rules should be a part of that. If Mint is repeatedly getting the category of a recurring transaction wrong, you can create a rule for it to follow by clicking on transaction details and selecting the correct category (or making your own!). Doing so will prompt a checkbox that reads “Always rename X and categorize as Y”. Slacking off on little acts of maintenance like this can prevent you from being realistic about where your money is going.
7. Viewing Trends
If you click on the subheader “Trends”, you not only get a sleek pie chart or graph of your monthly expenses, but the chance to view a category, merchant or tag according to custom filters. I recommend taking the time to play around with this feature to gain perspective on your spending.
Despite how it sounds, the “Hide” feature is not about shoving regrettable splurges under the rug (although you can use it for that reason). If you have an inactive account or a transaction you wish to hide so it won’t affect your activity, you can do so under Settings.
9. Monitor Your Credit Score
Although it may not be the most reliable credit score, Mint nevertheless provides you with the free feature and even breaks down the summary into layman’s terms and offer you tips. Yet another win for Mint!
10. Google Chrome extension: Mojito
There’s a cute extension for Google Chrome called Mojito, that gives you a little something extra. Working seamlessly with Mint, it’s a spreadsheet-oriented tool that allows you to be even more specific with not just your interface but your budget and savings goals. For married couples, it also has the handy feature of allowing you to import data from multiple Mint accounts without merging them.