Last year I finally found what I think is the best budgeting and personal finance app available - the free, easy and powerful software online. I started using because I wanted something to track all of my personal finances, but I didn’t like constantly adding transactions to budgeting software at home. Apparently over 6 million people use Mint to get their entire financial picture in one place -- and it’s designed as “read-only” software with bank-level data security (128-bit SSL encryption, validated by VeriSign and TRUSTe), so it doesn’t add any risk for hackers, identity theft, or any other concerns since no actual transactions are possible. Mint works online, and also with the iPad, iPhone, or Android platforms, and it’s totally free. Why? They make their money showing you ways to save money on relevant financial products (savings, checking, CDs, investments, insurance, credit cards), so they get paid by their sponsorships. And the offers are presented in a way that makes them useful, not too spammy -- they show you your potential savings with each product over the next three years. They’ve had positive reviews from the New York Times, Money Magazine, and ABC News, and elsewhere - so I felt like they were reputable.

See Your Big Picture Financially, All in One Place

With you can see all of your accounts - from savings and checking, to credit cards, loans, and retirement. When you log in, you can see an Overview of your entire financial world. This is powerful in keeping you from ever missing a payment, and paying an unnecessary late fee. You can see you account Transactions, which is a great way to know when checks or bills get posted - or to just keep track of your account for strange activity. With this feature, I feel like I can do my own identity-theft protection. If I see a transaction I need to dispute, I immediatelt call my bank or credit card company and freeze the payment -- thanks to Mint. 

You can create Budgets to track all your spending by category. For example, if you go over on your entertainment, food and dining, or any other category during the month, you can receive a customized alert. They have nearly one hundred standard categories from utilities, rent/mortgage, gym fees, to laundry, travel, and more -- and you can easily add your own or edit any of those given. Budgeting is really just about spending less money than you make, and simply living within your means. They say you will enjoy life more if you know where your money’s going, and you can see how you’re doing financially. Considering money, debt, and bill are often the main cause of marital and Mint-com-online-budgeting-software-freerelationship issues -- I bet having an effective budget could make many happy homes all over the world!

Building Your Future: Financial Planning and Online Money Management

Mint lets you set personal finance Goals, and it helps you track your progress. These goals can be as simple as paying down, or paying off a credit card or loans, or having a particular savings goal for a home, car, vacation, college, home improvements, or retirement. Of course this section of their site/software allows you to create custom goals as well. They also have a great resource with their Trends tool where you can easily compare income, assets, debts, and spending this month to your totals from last month or from last year. It’s great to see Mint's graphs and charts to visualize and reinforce your individual progress. (I also love seeing charts in Excel and Numbers for Mac, for this same reason!)

The other way you can see your progress towards your future goals, is to see all of your Investments in one place. It will show each user the basic performance, value, allocation, and comparison to the Dow, S&P 500, or NASDAQ of their holdings. Like I mentioned, if you don’t have savings and investment accounts, the platform will recommend things to you. The progress you make paying bills, paying off debt, and saving will inspire to begin your own personal wealth plan.

Of course because the site, Mint has to make money for all the services they offer, so they have a tab called Ways to Save which can show you personalized recommendations for various products including banking, credit cards, checking/savings accounts/CDs, mortgage rates, investment choices (brokerage, rollover 401K, IRAs), and auto/life insurance. I think their presentation of offers is tastefully done, and often very useful to me because it’s personalized.

SUMMARY is powerful online-budgeting, personal finance, and money management software. Because it’s completely free -- and it’s been totally safe and secure for me -- I’ve been recommending it to friends and family for a while now. On my blog site, I even signed up to be a affiliate through Commission Junction because I like it so much. I use it at home on the laptop, and on my iPhone -- a cool app which wipes all the data each time I log out to protect me if I ever lose my smartphone. They may have thought of everything! I’ve already saved money by using by avoiding late fees on bills I forgot about, and moving savings to cover a check that cleared too soon. Plus I feel safer now seeing all my transactions as they process. It’s a great way to simplify all your finances, and control your money.