Mint.com is can be a useful tool to use in your quest to eliminate student debt. The key to Mint’s usefulness is the real-time budgeting that it performs. Personal finance experts will universally tell you that budgeting is important, but they often leave out the fact that it is a pain in the neck. As someone with a job and a life, I never made budgeting a priority. I was already careful with how I spent my money and the time needed to budget didn’t seem to be well spent. Mint represented my first foray into budgeting.
What is Mint?
Mint is a website that helps uses track all of their finances. When you sign up for Mint, you identify the various financial institutions you work with (i.e. student loan companies, credit card companies, banks, etc.). After that you give mint your username and password to get access to these accounts. (Yes, sharing that info is a huge concern, we will get into that a bit later)
Mint will then pull all of your recent transactions and start tracking your future transactions as they happen. Logging on to Mint a user is able to see all of their balances, recent transactions, and notices about their budget.
Making a Budget
Mint makes creating a budget extremely easy. It already is able to categorize your purchases, so when it sees $200 go to Navient, it knows that it is a student loan payment.
Users can set up a monthly budget and specify how much they expect to spend on rent, utilities, dining, grocery shopping, etc. Those that want to can go into great detail. Mint will even remind you when you have bills due.
The advantage of doing this is that it allows you to see exactly how much money you spend in various ways. My first time on Mint showed me that I spent way more dining out that what I would have guessed. The Mint interface makes it easy to identify areas in which money could be saved each month.
Another useful feature to Mint is that users can set goals. For example, paying off a student loan can be listed as a goal. Mint will then track your payments, your progress, and give you an estimate on when you should reach that goal. Being able to track progress in this manner is very helpful.
One other aspect that is incredibly motivating is seeing student loan accounts with a $0.00 balance. Each time I log into Mint and see those zero balances next to some of the loans that I’ve paid off, I find a little extra motivation. These accounts could obviously be deleted as I am no longer using them, but I like leaving them in there as trophies of past success.
The big worry with Mint is giving them login credentials to financial sites. There has been a ton of discussion on this subject, done by far more qualified individuals, so I’ll just share my personal thoughts. I like that Mint has been around for a long time and that they have never had a data breach. I also weigh the mint security risks against the security benefits. Using Mint I have caught fraudulent activities on my credit card. I would like to think I would have caught them either way, but Mint makes tracking all transactions very easy. It definitely helps spot fraud.
I’m also not a fan of the Mint advertising. Mint is free because they are able to provide targeted advertising. The Mint advertising isn’t intrusive, but it also isn’t necessarily advertising the best options for consumers. People with student loans can expect to see student loan refinance company advertisements. Mint won’t sort out the companies according to who offers the best refinance rates, nor will the provide a comprehensive list of the companies offering refinancing services. Mint will just promote companies that pay to advertise. It isn’t unethical on their part… it just means consumers should know to shop around first.
Making the Most of Mint
If you are willing to spend about 5 minutes a few times a week, Mint can be a very helpful tool. It will help you track your spending, save money where possible, and put together a plan to eliminate debt. For those that need it, Mint can also be a solid source of motivation and a way to track your progress.
Min is far from a perfect tool, but it can be a great resource.