Are you interested in learning how to use Mint.com to manage your personal finances? This free online software is something that I’ve used to budget my personal finances for several years. But never quite figured out what all the little tabs and shortcuts were.
It works great for creating a monthly budget of income and expenses, as well as creating long-term goals for investing and saving.
As an small biz owner I like using Mint.com to separate my personal finances from my business accounts, and still be able to see all of my bank accounts, loans, and credit cards at a glance.
And did I mention it’s completely free?
Getting Started With Mint.com
Mint’s budgeting software and accompanying Mint Bills app aggregates all of your finances, bills, and budgets in one place.
The online program, which is also available as a mobile app, was created by the makers of TurboTax and Quicken. So it also syncs well with these products for year-end tax reports and accounting needs. Mint.com is the most popular budgeting system available.
Here’s how to get started using Mint.
Step 1: Open a new account.
Head over to www.mint.com and click the “Sign Up” button. All you need to create a new account is an email address, password, country, and zip code. Within a few seconds you can access your Mint.com account and start adding your banking info.
Step 2: Connect your financial accounts.
Before you can start using Mint.com effectively you have to connect and sync your financial accounts. Don’t worry this is a read-only feature so you won’t be able to access your bank accounts to make transfers or move money around. It’s completely secure.
This next step will likely be the most time-consuming part of setting up your Mint.com account, depending on how many accounts you have. To save some time though, I suggest you have all banking login information handy.
Under the “Accounts” section simply add your bank account from the list. Mint.com syncs with nearly every financial institution available, so if you don’t see yours listed simply do a quick search.
Once your regular checking accounts have been connected and synced, it’s time to add your other financial accounts, like credit cards, car loans, and investments. This will give you an accurate picture of your entire finances, so you can see your complete net worth.
The most commonly used information will be the various tabs on the upper right-hand corner, including Overview, Transactions, Budgets, and Goals.
Step 3: Create a personal budget plan.
One of the best features of using Mint.com is that you can track your expenses with a customizable budget. Then at the end of each month you simply review the categories and check-in with your spending history.
My husband and I do this at the beginning of each month so we know what our target spending plan is for the coming month. Then we check-in with the mobile app on our iPhone to see how our spending stacks up. If we’re spending too much, we dial it back. Or if we have extra to spend at the end of the month, we go out on a nice dinner date.
You can get started by clicking the “Budgets” tab in the upper right hand corner, then create a custom budget based on your desired categories and spending numbers.
Each budget comes with a category already established, based on the average consumer’s budget. In addition, each category has a subcategory associated with it for better categorization. But you can choose your own custom categories for spending and income.
When inputting categories for your income I suggest looking at your actual take home pay figures, then you can accurately create a proper budget based on this number. After all, a proper budget means you’re spending less than you earn, so you want to know exactly how much money you’re making each month.
Now go down through each category and create the rest of your budget expenses. Once you’ve chosen how often this particular expense will occur, (monthly, every few months, or once) click “Save”.
One really cool feature about using Mint.com to track your monthly spending is that it will show your spending versus the U.S. average spending in that category. This allows you to gauge your spending habits and adjust them up or down accordingly.
When I recently compared our monthly grocery budget (which I thought was extremely high) to the average U.S. couple’s budget, I was surprised to find out that ours was actually very normal. Now I’ve stopped having such ridiculous expectations for our trips to the grocery store.
Step 4: Take the next step with financial goals.
Aside from the extensive budget features, Mint.com is also a great tool for setting financial goals for important life events like purchasing a home, getting out of debt, or building an emergency fund.
To being, choose from their list of “Goals” after clicking the butting in the upper right hand corner. If your goal isn’t listed, you can choose to create a custom one for your specific needs.
The way that your goal is calculated is based on the amount of money you need to reach your desired number, and when the final date for completion is.
The Goals feature is extremely helpful for keeping yourself financially accountable, and Mint.com provides actionable steps to keep you motivated and on track during your journey.
Step 5: Learn how to use Mint.com with The Mint Manual.
The Mint Manual: A shortcut to mastering and saving money with Mint.com by Tim Murphy is a simple step-by-step guide that will show you how to use Mint.com while saving you tons of time and headache.
It costs $29 but pays for itself when you can avoid an overdraft fee (which can cost $30 or more!). The Mint Manual also includes instructions for using different types of devices and apps.
The design and format is beautiful, clean and easy to understand. The Mint Manual is made up of 5 stand alone sections, in case you don’t use the other types of devices (which include the iPad and iPhone apps, as well as Android phone and tablet apps).
The author, Tim Murphy doesn’t just do the cut and dry tips either, he includes screenshots, secret tips and even a cheat sheet.
He even uses his own finances as examples and even displays a few super nerd sections (that you can skip if you’re not a financial nerd). Check out this in-depth Q&A with author Tim Murphy, of The Mint Manual!
1. As a long time Mint user, what gave you the (genius) idea to create a Mint Manual? Does Mint have anything close to this for it’s users already?
I’ve been a Mint user for about 4 years. The idea for the book actually came from Chris Guillebeau’s book, The $100 Startup. He told the story about Brett Kelly doing a detailed user guide for Evernote called, Evernote Essentials. Brett was extremely successful with that book, which made me think about other programs that had a lot of users who might not be getting the most out of said program.
Mint stood out because 1) it’s got a ton of users — 10 million or so 2) it’s really easy to learn the basics, but the fine points take time, so most people just stop at the basics (that’s what I heard from every Mint user I talked to). I wanted to provide a short-cut to all the good stuff.
Mint does have some tutorials, but they usually just cover the basics and don’t really drill down. I haven’t seen anything that’s nearly as comprehensive and easy as The Mint Manual.
2. Yes, I agree. Your guide is full of simple instructions and helpful screenshots. How long did it take you to compile everything into this epic guide?
It was a lot of time and effort, especially the screenshots. One of the barriers to entry in making a Mint guide is that obscuring all of one’s financial information (while keeping the guide pretty) is really time consuming. As for the writing itself, I really put my head down and cranked out a workable version in about a month.
Slightly embarrassing note: I actually hate techno music but I heard that a lot of programmers use it when writing code. I tried and found it really helped me focus by drowning out any other distraction. Because I don’t own any techno songs, I use GetWorkDoneMusic.com.
3. How did you learn about all the little tips and tricks? (I especially like the part where you suggest opening multiple tabs — so smart!)
Yes! The tabs part is a huge time-saver. Most of the tricks I learned by my own trial and error over the years. That’s a very inefficient way to learn, and will turn off a lot of people, which is why I wanted to create the The Mint Manual as a short-cut.
I also contacted Mint Help from time to time and spent a good amount of time on the Mint forums. That gave me an idea of what was causing users confusion and where people needed help.
4. Between the full version website, the iPad/tablet apps and the smartphone apps, which Mint version do you use the most (or find most user-friendly) and why?
Which do I use the most? I still use the web version the most, mainly because it has every feature I need and I can work very quickly. After that, definitely the iPhone app.
Searching all transactions is a lot easier on iOS than Android, and I also love being able to split transactions when organizing on the go (something you can’t currently do with an Android device).
5. What’s your favorite feature about Mint? Why do you like it?
Macro-level: I like Mint because it makes managing your money easier and so much more enjoyable. I’m convinced it was made for people who hate doing their finances. Between budgets, goals, bill reminders, alerts, and instant access to your financial history – it doesn’t get easier. And it’s FREE.
Micro-level: I LOVE that you can look up transactions from years back and see exactly how much you spent, at what vendor, and when – all in like 5 seconds from a mobile device. I’ve used this during negotiations (to compare what I’ve spent on comparable services in the past), when reviewing bills (to see if my bill went up from last time), and just to review overall spending.
6. Are you hoping to be an official Mint consultant or enter into a collaboration with Mint? (You never know!)
Ha — with all my cheer leading it probably sounds like I already am! (But I’m not.) Obviously I think Mint is the best personal finance software out there, which is why I chose to help other users learn to really leverage their program.
I’d love to collaborate with them, if nothing else to get The Mint Manual to more of their users — that’s definitely win-win-win. There is so much more to Mint than most people realize, and The Mint Manual fixes that by showing short-cuts to all the good stuff.
Thanks for taking time to answer my questions, Tim. And thank you for creating this super helpful and time-saving guide for all of us to benefit from!