In between overdoing it

Mint Budget Review-Week Two

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Last week was a tough one. It took quite some time to enter all the information into the program and link all my accounts together. This week I hope we will see the fruits of all that labor. When I logged back into Mint.com I felt well… overwhelmed again. There is a lot of information going on here and I am really not sure where to start first. Across the top of the screen there are several tabs; Overview, Transactions, Budgets, Goals Trends, Investments, and Ways to save. For now we will examine Overview, Transactions and Budgets.

The Overview screen has a lot going on. On the left side of the screen is a summary of all the account information you had entered prior. Next to that there is an area that is titled “Alerts.” I thought this section was really interesting. It gives you suggestions on how to save money by analyzing your pre-entered account information for instance it advised me that I am spending 112% more than the average Mint user on car insurance. That is good to know. Maybe I will shop around for a better rate!.

The next section was titled Advice but it really was more of an advertisement for an Airline Miles credit card and another “free” credit report offer. This section is followed by a brief overview of my upcoming bills, a glimpse at the “Budget” and “Goals” sections. Below this was “Portfolio movers and shakers” and “Ways to save.” I figure there will be more on this when we get to the investment  and saving sections.Money in hand

The next tab we will look at is Transactions. Again, a ton of information listed here. The very top heading states “All Cash and Credit Accounts and provides a search bar if you need to locate a specific transaction. There is also a button below this area to add a transaction, should you go out and buy a soda or a pack of gum in cash and need to record it. It also states your total cash to total debit.

This is followed by a listing of all of your transactions, which go in for pages and pages.You are also able to adjust and edit any prior transaction on the list. Again a lot of information if you want it. Sprinkled around the page here and there are additional advertisements for various credit products.

A really cool feature of this section is the ability to click into any transaction and see a side bar graph showing you how your purchases in that category compares to the national average. You can get an idea if you are over-spending in a certain area compared to the rest of the nation. It really is not much help to me in starting my budget and analyzing my transactions. So let’s to the meat of why we are here, Budgets.

The first thing about the Budgets section that really jumped out at me is that it will give you an alert if you go over budget. To me that is a fantastic feature. It would make things a lot easier in our busy life to get  reminder when I am over my budget. Another interesting feature is a sort of introduction to budgets how to, which I found very helpful. It went into some detail about how the program will automatically set-up your budget categories but you can add or charge them as you see fit.

It also adds that since all your accounts are linked to the program, you are using actual data without having to enter it all one by one where you might over or underestimate an amount. It is working with what you actually spend to notice spending trends and give advice. Pretty cool.

So most of the budget is already set up when you go into this tab based on the accounts that you have linked to the program. The how-to was a nice feature however, I would have liked more specifics on what you actually need to add in order to set up your budget. There is a button to create budget, but I was unsure what information to enter since most categories seems to be set up already.

After further inspection Mint is using the word budget to designate a spending limit in each category, not in the over all creating of a budget like it would be used normally. Kind of confusing. In some categories they have even given you a suggested spending limit. This is a bit different from the other programs, but Mint is so much more complex than the other programs, I shouldn’t be surprised. The only thing I really needed to do here was review the transactions for each category and make sure they were put in the right spot. This part was actually pretty easy. (Finally, something that was easy!)

So there we have it. All of our transactions are in our budget and categorized. It was a little difficult to figure out where all the information went but after reviewing the page and getting better idea of what were ads and what was usable information, it came together nicely. I know these posts on Mint are running longer then my normal posts, thanks for hanging in there. Next week we will look at how all the information is used to set up goals. Also we will explore the added features of this program.

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