Take Control of Your Finances with Budgeting Software

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Mint.com (try typing “mint” into my search box and see how many posts come up). I’ve been meaning to do write about budgeting for awhile, but I got a great reminder this week and you need to be reminded too, if you’re not already a habitual user.

The first thing I do every morning is check my email on my iPhone. Then I start up my Mint app and see my recent transactions update and how my budget is doing. I can’t get enough of seeing my budget and seeing those transactions from a few days ago roll in. It keeps me in touch with my finances. Some say it’s overkill. I say it’s 30 seconds in the morning while I’m still in bed.

I was speaking to someone about their spending about 6 months ago, and I told him to sign up for Mint (it’s free!). He said he was afraid to see how much he spends on coffee for work (the team goes out every day and they flip coins to see who pays) and how much his wife spends on clothes. In his own words, “This is going to be a disaster.”

Since we also discussed Lending Club in the conversation, I told him that if he doesn’t track his finances, he won’t know how much he could be investing on a monthly basis. He begrudgingly agreed, and less than a minute after signing up sent me this message (unedited, I promise):

“This interface is awesome. So simple.”

Has anyone ever had anything bad to say about Mint?

Obviously I can’t get enough of it, but there are plenty of other options out there. Mint happened to be my first budgeting software and I’ve had no need to explore other options. That being said, I know people who have had success with their own homemade excel spreadsheets. If you’re not up to the task, you can also read this Moneydance review that has great things to say about the software. One difference is that you have to pay for the software, so you’ll have to determine whether the list of features are worth the extra cost.

This post isn’t just to promote software. Just the opposite. It’s to promote those who are reading who don’t have a budget and those who have bad experiences to get up and take action to improve.

Getting your finances together can be scary, but once you jump in, you’ll realize that just by merging your accounts into one place, you’re in a much better position.

Readers, do you use budgeting software? If you don’t, why not?

7 Responses to Take Control of Your Finances with Budgeting Software

  1. Kevin McKee says:

    I haven’t had a bad experience with Mint. Just not a good one. It was interesting at first, but I never went back to manage my budget there. It also doesn’t have the customization that I prefer in my budgeting, which is why I use a spreadsheet.

    Another Mint-like software is http://www.bundle.com

    I don’t use Bundle either, but I like it because it compares your finances to those of other people like you, and lets you know where you stand. If I were going to use one of them, I’d use Bundle.

    • Daniel says:

      @Kevin McKee, I’ve seen bundle, but I don’t use it. Once I found mint, there was no need for anything else.

      Is the comparison useful or just a novelty? I’m not sure ranking against other people is always helpful. I’m sure I spend a lot less than the average person living in D.C. but that doesn’t mean I should creep up to the average just because.

      Is it a pain to record all your expenses? Or does it help keep you in touch with how much you’re spending?

  2. Little House says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the idea that budgeting is scary, until you actually do it; then it’s great! I still don’t use Mint.com, I instead use Quickbooks but only because I’ve used it for years helping my husband with his business. Years ago, I used to dread pulling up my transactions from my bank and comparing them to my Quickbooks program (I still do this manually since I can’t get it to auto-update), but once I started keeping track of my expenses on a daily or every-other-day rate, I became less worried about money since I know exactly how much I have.

  3. Valerie says:

    I love Mint! I used it extensively, but my husband and I started to be concerned that all of our passwords and account information were being stored somewhere. I don’t think it’s extreme paranoia, given that my concern is not that Mint itself would divulge such info, but that someone may hack their system or they have some other kind of security breech.

    As a result, we’ve switched to Quicken. I find Quicken overall much more powerful, though definitely less user-friendly. It took me much longer to set up than Mint did.

    • Daniel says:

      @Valerie, So my thoughts are that there are always risks we take, but that in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big one. I think you are at more risk to be pick-pocketed or something than having a huge financial institution hacked into.

      Also…

      Mint is owned by Intuit. Quicken is also owned by Intuit. Turbotax? Intuit.

      With Turbotax, there’s a LOT of personal information that hackers would be much more interested in.

  4. Valerie says:

    Very interesting on the Intuit!! I had no idea! If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would eat that up.

    And on Turbotax, perhaps it’s fitting that we use an accountant, and not any software… (though that one is due not to security concerns, but complicated taxes.)

  5. Noah says:

    The one thing I really like about Mint.com is that it pulls in transactions from all accounts. I also like the weekly “net worth” emails. However, I use YNAB because it’s much more flexible and very similar to how I used to set up my Excel spreadsheet. I wish that Mint.com exported data in a format other than CSV so that I could easily import transactions into YNAB.