Personal finance in a "refreshing" new light

Like mission control for your money, Mint finally puts all of your financial information in one place. And did I mention it’s free?

In less than an hour I was able to link with my sixteen cash, investment and loan accounts to Mint. In just a couple of hours I had classified my previous 90 days of transactions into spending and budget categories.

After that initial investment of time, has proved again and again to be well worth the effort. I spend about ten minutes a week classifying the receipts when I put them in the checkbook ledger, and I’ve been able to stick with it.

Once all of my spending was coded into categories, I was able to set up a budget. I could even compare to similar users (anonymously) with others in my geographic area. Now when I approach my budget cap I receive a (optional) text message to my mobile phone and an email warning.

Three months later, I’ve twice slashed my food budget in half without making a conscious effort to do so. Just knowing what we’re spending helps control costs. Thinking of ordering desert? If you’re an iPhone user, you can take a look at your ‘dining out’ budget on the spot and see if you’re in a place for that splurge.

Mint also continues to get better all the time. Thanks Mint, for adding asset trackers this past week. For those of us whose assets are tied up in real estate equity, cars or concert posters, it’s nice to open and see a positive number at the bottom of the sidebar under “net worth.” also offers a feature for those of us that may need to reevaluate our financial choices. The free software is free for a reason. There’s some sponsorship to It’s nicely confined to an extra tab and not forced on you via popups or offensive emails. It looks at your spending and savings habits and suggests products that may be a better fit. Some of these I’m even considering switching to.

Mint's interface is so easy to understand and easy to read that yesterday, when my fourth grader came home and said she'd learned about "good and bad kinds of interest" in math class we opened up Mint for clearer examples of interest at work for and against our family's budget.

If is reading, I do have a few suggestions for improvement. However they are so minor that I hesitate to mention here for fear anyone may be discouraged from trying for themselves.

In the “spend space” I would like to see an “all spending” category added. I want to see historically how I’ve reduced my spending month-to-month since joining Mint. I know I have, but the charts are psychologically rewarding.

I’d love to see an application that downloaded the value of the stack of savings bonds I have stashed in a safe deposit box. I know that the treasury offers an app online to valuate class EE bonds with the serial numbers. It would be great to be able to store my bond info there too. But don’t bother if I’m the only person who still has bonds.

Who wouldn't love to see an online bill paying option come to Mint one day? I go to mint to see when my credit card bill is due and how much I should pay towards it. It would be really nice to pay it from there.

I recommend without reservation, especially for those like me who’ve struggled with maintaining their household budget or tracking their spending. We all know we should—-but it’s easier said than done. Give it a shot—you have nothing to loose. I’m feeling Minty. Are you?

Note: Mint isn't the only player in this business. Wesabe is similar. My review of Wesabe will be on its way to Prosper Lending Review shortly.

Jessica Ward is a freelance writer based in the Seattle area.