Overshoppers often limp along in a thick financial fog. They may have little grasp of where their money goes, how much they owe, or what to do about any of it. And every financial guru who would help them begins with roughly the same advice: start with clarity.
Mint.com is a free, internet-based program for making and sustaining that leap. It has both a powerful expenditure-tracker and a flexible budgeting tool. Using the two in tandem gives you graphic, color-coded representations of how you’re doing at any point.
Seeing clearly the contours of your financial landscape is no simple matter of opening your eyes wider. It takes careful tracking of your expenditures and a developed list of regular and periodic expenses—an important but arduous bookkeeping chore. Here’s where Mint is so refreshing. As one of our recent group members wrote, “I was very impressed. It is simple to use, easy to set up, and they send you alerts if you’re behind on a bill or your balance gets too low.” “The scary part,” she adds, “is that it’ll show you your net worth. After that, you can no longer hide behind unopened bills.”
Mint is part of the highly reputable Intuit family of products, including Quicken, and the site is secure. Further, it’s read-only, which means that although you keep your financial data on it, no money can actually be moved via the site. Galia Gichon, of “Down to Earth Finance,” whom I really respect, calls Mint “the personal finance winner overall,” and particularly values their technology and security.