Mint is a free personal finance tool that lets you see your working budget at a glance.

In an increasingly online world, Mint’s technology is hailed for its easy-to-use programs and simple-but-informative graphics of an individual’s financial picture. The money management features help consumers pay their bills on time, save for big-ticket items and monitor their credit scores in one stop. Mint also tracks the performance of investments and sends alerts on any suspicious activity.

Using Mint is simple and straightforward. Like many apps and programs, Mint initially requires extra steps signing on and connecting your accounts. Syncing accounts like checking, credit cards and bills are key because this is how Mint works – by curating your finances and providing an overall picture at a glance. (See also: Managing Personal Finances: Your Annual Self-Check.)

Linking your Accounts

Start by using your email to register on mint.com or on the app and create a password. Then follow the prompts to sync your accounts. You’ll see Mint already has connections with most banks and provides a dropdown search feature for them. You can connect your mortgages, credit cards, PayPal, and as many bank accounts as you’d like, among other accounts. Mint protects its users' account information with security features that are on par with those of a bank.

When you have all of your accounts connected, Mint will provide you an overview of your finances. The next step is to develop a budget. Based on your finances, Mint will offer a proposed budget for you, but you can adjust that. You can increase or decrease a budget item like “Auto & Transport: Gas & Fuel.”

Use Mint to view your spending trends and monitor progress on your budget. Over time, you can analyze your money habits and identify ways to improve your finances.

Creating a Budget

Purchase Categories

While Mint’s simplicity has drawn more than 1 million users, it also has more advanced features. Among its many tricks, Mint allows users to divide up purchases into multiple categories for a more accurate financial portrait. (See also: New Help for the Millennial Money Dilemma.)

Splitting Up Transactions

For example, consumers buying multiple products at Target may want to split their transaction into different categories like “home improvement” and “groceries.” To divide your purchases, click on "edit details" and then the “split transaction” button on the right side. Enter the amount you want in each category for a more accurate snapshot of your finances.

Entering your transactions manually allows users to track their cash spend. For this trick, make sure the drop-down menu says “cash” and Mint will automatically deduct the amount from your last ATM withdrawal so it is not deducted from your cash balance twice.

Customize Notifications

Mint users can customize an array of notifications to meet their needs. You can set daily, weekly or monthly notices when you go over budget, when your credit score changes or when you incur an unusual amount of fees. You can also set the notices so they send to another person as well, such as a spouse.

Aside from categories, a tags feature allows users to see their finances organized in another way. For example, you can layer another label like “fixed expenses” onto the categories to see what percentage you are allotting to fixed expenses like monthly bills.

The Bottom Line

Mint provides multiple ways for you to create and manage a budget. It’s noted for its simplicity and informative overview of your finances. There’s no downside to trying it out – after all, it’s free. (See also: How Mint Makes Money.)

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