By: Revanche

Newly Minted: Managing Married Money

September 29, 2014

Mint.com: A review

For most of the early money blogging years, right around the time I started using credit cards in earnest for the rewards, Yodlee was my account aggregator of choice.

It was unsophisticated but did the job: kept me apprised of all my banking and credit card transactions in addition to the manual tracking I’d do and keep me honest and firmly atop bill paying. When it started running into all kinds of updating problems because of added security at the banking end, I had to give it up.

There were a few attempts to get into other software since but they were halfhearted at best, and I retreated into the relatively safe haven of spreadsheets. It just doesn’t work for us together, though, we maintain our own legacy spreadsheets and they don’t merge well, they don’t let us do aggregated reporting well, and it’s hugely time consuming. We won’t have the luxury of spending three hours at a time recording transactions soon.. heck, we don’t really have that time now!

Once, long ago, I’d started working with Mint in its early days but since Yodlee was still working for me, I quit. Now it’s time to venture back and see how it might work for us.

Our requirements: It has to be both dead simple and require very little time or brain power to set up and maintain. As much as I love spending time with my money, this has to be the low-maintenance solution.
We both need easy access to it.
It should automatically pull transactions for us.
We should be able to add manual (cash) transactions.
We need to be able to reconcile and categorize spending.

Early observations: the interface

We get weekly updates that might tell us we’re overspending in a particular category, versus how much we normally spend, or that we have upcoming bills.

Good: This is a great way to keep us both on the same page.

Bad: I wish that they’d send up both all the notes. Because we don’t have joint everything accounts, I’d have to sign in to see what’s been charged on his card, whilst he would get the email notifications, and vice versa. We recently had an incident where a merchant charged a purchase as a cash advance and were dinged with a $10 fee. Only he got the notification for that.

We can access the interface as long as we have an internet connection; we don’t have to share files manually.

Good: Being in one system is great, and so is not having manually shift files and cells and whatever else about.
Bad: If you don’t have internet, you’re out of luck.

Early observations: hiccups

I’ve had the worst trouble signing in, sometimes, it wouldn’t even let me past the log on page for a few days, once and their Help folks took about seven emails to understand that. They still didn’t fix anything, it just actually started working again. I do NOT like that.

Accounts are constantly requiring my attention – there’s always one or more banks that require me to re-enter the password or what have you, even though nothing has changed in the last five days. Occasionally, it’s for a legitimate reason like it’d like to confirm that I want to close an account.

I know some of you are Mint.com users: any tips or suggestions for making the most of it?

6 Responses to “Newly Minted: Managing Married Money”

  1. Lauren says:

    We used it in the early days and I found it lacking then…. I would be curious as to how it has changed. It help putting all of my expenses in the wrong categories so my budgets were never correct and it took way too much manual fixing. Grr.
    Lauren recently posted…(Beauty) Products Review: 10 & 11My Profile

  2. SP says:

    I used it forever ago (when it was newish), but manual fixes were an issue. It didn’t allow me enough control (in favor of “ease of use” and UI) to ignore certain transactions, or to handle how I used to do my targeted savings funds.

    So, I still am using Yodlee for basic aggregation, then I export the transactions monthly and dump them into my own file… (or you know, maybe I just exported them for the first time since July last weekend… So, whenever.) I spend some time “cleaning” them – re-categorizing, ignoring transfers and the like, following up on reimbursements…. then I look at our net worth and spending. I think I spent 2 hours on it this weekend, but it was 3 months worth of data. I could add manual transactions if desired (never really do).

    This has drawbacks, primarily, no real time spending alerts and no automated charts. I use excel to do my own charts and analysis and budgeting. Our budget is not currently strict, so real time alerts are not super necessary. (Note – yodlee does give us over budget alerts – I just don’t really have them set up accurately and just ignore them.)

    I need to be able to do exactly what I want with my data, and finagling with Mint wasn’t working. I want to make my own charts! It also gave me a reason to learn pivot tables a few years ago.

    I keep the excel file with my own analysis on DropBox and share with T. But mostly, I maintain it, show it to him regularly, and he almost never opens it himself. No merging of systems necessary here.

  3. Linda says:

    I’m a current Mint user and it works just fine for my purposes. That said, I’m not a hard core budgeter, and if I was I would likely find it frustrating. If you’re trying to set a budget for something every month, then it works fine. But anything different than that is confusing to me.

    Let’s say I want to budget $240 for clothing purchases over the year. So I break it down to $20 a month for clothing. But if I don’t spend $20 a month on clothing (which I wouldn’t since I tend to buy once or twice a year and that’s it), then it shows me as always under budget there. Then, when I do spend the money it shows me as over-budget. I’ve tried setting it up as a quarterly or semi-annual thing, but that still shows in the budget as under or over.

    I’ve also closed some accounts that were once connected to Mint. It seems that I can’t delete them or the history of transactions in those accounts will be lost. So every once in a while it prompts me that these accounts “need attention.” Annoying.

    I just never connected to my credit union account at all. I finally gave up. Since I had very little activity in that account and am closing it next month, I will no longer have to worry about it, at least.

    I find it useful during tax time since I could sort/filter transactions and export them. This was handy for completing my tax planner as I could easily group items like Home Maintenance, Utilities, etc. (these were important as partial business expenses since I was renting out part of the house.) Unfortunately, though, you must export EVERYTHING, so I can’t just choose to export stuff for the one calendar year. I end up exporting everything in that category and then deleting the transactions I don’t need.

    It does “learn” how I prefer to categorize transactions over time, and I can add new categories as needed. You can also add tags to your transactions, but those must be updated manually. Cash transactions must be added manually (of course) and it will allow you to count it against an ATM withdrawal (I hope that made sense). Since I do still write some checks, I find that I must always update them since they simply show up as “Check.”

    I like that I can look stuff up easily using the mobile app, too.

    I guess I’d say I like it overall, but there is room for improvement. Or perhaps I just need to learn how to use it better.
    Linda recently posted…How do you pack a bicycle?My Profile

  4. […] and caregiver. It also helped punt us into getting way more organized both in the home and with our money which, of course, makes me really […]

  5. […] our money management. We got on Mint this year which is starting to work ok. Though their habit of duplicating transactions is […]

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