Last week I discussed a small business accounting tool called Xero . This week I want to discuss a web-based personal finance tool called Mint ( http://www.mint.com ). Mint integrates with bank accounts, credit cards, loans, investment accounts or virtually any other personal account tied to your finances. You can add assets such as the value of your home, car, boat or whatever that is not in a cash-like account. This will not only give you a summary of assets, but also allows you to drill down to see how you manage your money. Even though Mint is web-based, it is very secure. It uses the same security protocols banks do for online banking. Mint cannot alter accounts. It only reads what they are and their history. Money cannot change hands through and accounts will be safe. The "transactions" section is where I spend most of my time reviewing. You will find a list of transactions from credit card purchases to checks. You can set up categories for transactions type such as shopping, groceries, automobile, utilities, rent, etc. Mint will learn what type of transactions should go into what category. Once you have the categories, you can begin setting monthly budgets. For example, maybe your goal is to spend $150 on gas, $250 on utilities and set aside $100 for restaurant expenses. The budget page will show your progress on each budget in bar chart form. Green means you are within budget, yellow means you are spending too fast and red means you have gone over. Mint will give you projections on monthly net income so you can prevent yourself from getting in debt. There also is a "trends" page that will provide an overview of how you are managing your finances. You can look at a pie chart and see which category is eating up most of your money. You can look at a long-term chart of net income to ensure you save each month. If you choose to, Mint can send you weekly summaries of spending by email. This is a great way to guilt yourself into cutting back on expensive dinners and shopping trips. You can set up goals, such as a specific amount you want to save each month. Mint will keep track and send reminders about where you stand. Additionally, Mint will send reminders on upcoming bills. Mint will automatically track some bills, such as utility bills. Other bills can be manually entered, such as biannual auto insurance. Mint is free. It generates revenue from partners, such as financial institutions. Depending on your spending habits, it will suggest ways of saving money. Suggestions include credit cards with lower monthly interest or savings accounts with higher interests rates. Mint is helpful whether you like keeping a general eye on your personal finances or you are working toward a specific goal. In any case, it is always a good idea to take some time to manage finances and Mint makes it easy. Brian Boyer is the managing partner of Web Pyro (http:// www.webpyro.com ) located in Wooster .
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