Friday, May 9, 2014

Frugal Online Tools: Mint.com

Not the kind of mint I'm talking about, but this picture is prettier
Image credit


With the amount of online visual noise that's constantly available at our fingertips, I like to keep things simple. There are a few blogs I love and visit frequently, all with a slightly different spin on the simple truth of successful frugal living: Spending less than you earn and living within your means.

I plan to do a spotlight on each of these  at some point because I think they are pretty inspiring, all for different reasons.

But today I'd like to share an online tool that I find helpful. It is really simple and straightforward to use. Anything too complicated and my eyes begin to glaze over.

It is called Mint.com and it's a software budgeting tool. Even the name is simple! I like that, it's easy to remember. 

It's free! Can't beat that. They do use advertising, but it's not in your face or obnoxious, and can even be helpful. In fact, one of the companies they recommend is Vanguard, the largest mutual fund company in the world, and the one where I put my hard earned dollars. 

How it works: Mint.com syncs up with your bank account so you can budget and track your expenses. Spend too much on groceries this month? Mint will tell you via an email spanking (just kidding, more like a gentle email reminder). If you use a debit card or write checks to make purchases like me, this is worth looking in to to track and allocate your expenses. 

With Mint.com you can get creative with your budget by making up your own categories however you'd like. And they do the math and tell you when you're in the red for the month (no!!!!!) or the black (phew!).

Not my budget, just an example from Mint.com

I'm not entirely sure of the security of mint, so keep that in mind. I've never had a security issue with it (and have used it for several years), but with any online service that tracks your bank account, it's important to be aware that there could be potential for compromise - just like with online banking.  Investor Junkie does a terrific and thorough review of Mint, including all the pros and some potential cons of this free budgeting software.

Of course you can't get much more simple than the "pen and paper" method (I still use that one too). Whatever method you use, a budget and tracking expenses is a crucial element to the simple and frugal life. It is a way of staying mindful of spending, and that, let me tell you, can reap great rewards.

*I am not a financial expert. As always, do your own research to see if these tools are right for you.