Keeping Track of Your Finances with Mint

To take control of your financial situation, you need a straightforward way of assessing your current standing.  In the past, this meant gathering together all of your paper credit card bills and check registers and getting to work on a spreadsheet.  If you wanted information on where your money was going, you had to enter and categorize all of your transactions manually.  Real-time assessment of your bank account and credit card balances was simply impossible - all assessment had to occur after the fact, once the previous month's paper statements had arrived.

In the bad old days, there were significant bookkeeping advantages to keeping your finances as simple as possible.  If you opened multiple credit, savings, or investment accounts, it became that much more difficult to keep track of the balances and holdings in each one and assure you always had enough money in the right places to cover all of your transactions.  Acquiring a new credit card meant one more paper statement to keep track of and one more check to write every month.  Paper checks and manually-initiated bank transfers were the only ways money could be transferred from account-to-account, further complicating financial management.

Modern tools have erased all of these problems.  Account-to-account transfers and credit card, utility, and even rent payments can be made online by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), and repeat payments can be scheduled to occur from a bank account automatically.  Bank and credit card statements can be downloaded as lists of transactions and pasted right into a spreadsheet.  Current account balances are always available online.

While it's now easier than ever to manage your finances, keeping track of multiple account balances has remained a work-intensive project.  Each bank has its own login credentials to remember, its own website layout, and its own statement format.  While some banks provide tools to categorize your transactions and analyze your spending patterns, each bank is different and many do not.

Enter: Mint.com
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Mint simplifies your financial life by securely collecting all of your financial information in one place and giving you a flexible set of tools to analyze your spending, create budgets, and manage your goals.  If you don't already use Mint, you should; the free service has over 10 million users, so chances are some of your friends and family already do.

Mint also offers a very handy mobile app that can display your current overall bank account and credit card  balances, quickly answering the question "how much money do I have available?"

Pretty much everyone who's reviewed Mint has loved it:

Lifehacker - http://lifehacker.com/mint/
NY Times - http://themedium.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/home-economics/
CNN Money Magazine - http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/pf/0811/gallery.web_sites.moneymag/2.html
PC Magazine - http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2321085,00.asp
See It Market - http://www.seeitmarket.com/5-reasons-to-love-mint-com/
Time - http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2012721_2012894_2012892,00.html
Webby Awards - http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=13#webby_entry_financial
ABC Money Matters - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0TznyjIZxA

Try it out!  Do you already use Mint?  Know of something better?  Concerned about security?  Reviews appreciated!