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I’ve been using Mint.com to organize our household budget for the past four years and I love it!  Many banks have similar features available through their online banking services, but I have yet to see one as detailed and feature-packed as Mint’s. In fact, between setting up automatic monthly payments and using Mint, I rarely ever have to even log into my bank or credit card online accounts any longer except to make transfers or changes. Every one of my accounts populates into Mint, and I can easily see what’s coming in and what’s going out. Mint replaced my prior strategy, which was writing it all down in a notebook and adding it all up myself, which I can’t imagine trying to find time for these days!

Here are my five favorites features that have helped me get organized, and I would suggest exploring them in this order! 

1 – CATEGORIES   First, you must link your accounts to Mint. Then, Mint will populate your account transaction. In each account, there is a column called “Category”.  Hover over the category name, and you can see more specific sub-categories. Categorizing your transactions is the absolute first step in getting organized and correctly populating great data on your whole financial picture with Mint!

At the bottom of the sub-categories list, there is a link to “Add/Edit Categories”.  I’ve named my categories more specifically so that I can search by those particular subsets.   For example, in Food & Dining, I’ve added the subcategories of “Tim Lunch” and “Kristina Lunch” which helps us separate out which restaurant charges are related to our work day, and subsequently, this has helped us on the Budget side of Mint to see that taking our lunches to work more often would be a great way to save some money! 🙂

I categorize transactions the same way in each account, so that later I can pull just that category and see just those related transactions across all accounts.

2 – TRANSACTION DETAILS     You’ll find this fabulous tool box within the Description column of your transaction lines within each account. If you hover over the description, you’ll see a link to “Edit Details”, and a box will pop up with details regarding that transaction, such as what account it appears on, the date it posted and  the description as it appears on your account statement. This box is packed with great features that let you customize your Mint experience to your liking!

a.  Split Transaction.  I use this box to the right of the Details for ATM Deposits when multiple checks/cash have been deposited so that we can specify, for example, that $25 of this $100 deposit came from Source A and the other $75 from Source B.

b.  Rules.  The nice thing about Mint is that, unlike most banking online accounts, you can change what populates for that transaction description! Instead of abbreviated names and ACH codes, etc, I’ve created rules to simply state the merchant name. And you can also set that charge/deposit’s custom categories to auto-populate in Mint too! Fair warning, though – keep an eye out because merchants do change up the descriptions periodically and you’ll have to do a little work to get your Mint rules updated and keep your data accurate.

c.  For further separation, you can also create Tags. You can really get into even more finer detail here!

d.  I haven’t seen this happen in awhile, but sometimes an account can show duplicate transactions, and there is a box to indicate a transaction has been duplicated so that it doesn’t throw off your balance.

3 – BUDGET   This tab is located along the top of the page, and this is where those categories will come in handy to manage a budget! If you’ve sub-categorized each avenue of income under the Income category, you’ll see all those sub categories here. If you hover over a subcategory and click “Edit Details”, you can enter what you would generally expect to receive from that source. So, for example, if you make $1500 every two weeks from an employer, you would enter “3000”. Alternately, if you click on Gas & Fuel sub category under Spending, you can stipulate a monthly budget for gas. The line will turn red when that budget has been exceeded. (But no complaints when the income expectations are exceeded!)

*Bonus – If you’re like us and using the cash envelope strategy is something you wish you could do but it just isn’t a reality for you in this digital world, Mint has a button here where you can ‘roll over’ your unused budgeted funds into the next month’s budget!

4 – GOALS    Set payoff or savings goals here. For credit card and loan payoffs, Mint will calculate and project a payoff date to pay off your accounts based on the data it populates (interest rates and minimum payments), or alternately, how long it will take you to save to meet your savings goal. This info will then also populate at the end of your Budget page and show every month the accumulated total that went towards that goal.

5 – TRENDS   This feature boasts some great data the longer you use Mint! You can toggle between pie graphs and line graphs, filter by duration periods, categories, merchants, etc. Once you’ve toured Steps 1-4, enjoy exploring the big picture of your finances that the Trends tab has to offer!

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