Saturday, January 29, 2011 Month One

It has officially been one month since I started testing out Overall, I'm pretty pleased, but, as usual, there have been a few drawbacks as well.

  • It's very pretty. I like the interface a lot. Once you've made up your budget categories, it lays them all out with a horizontal bar that moves as you spend in each category. The bar is also color-coded to let you know when you're getting close to your limit. Green for good, yellow for "getting close" and red for over the limit.
  • It also lists out all accounts--savings, credit cards, student loans in the left column. It's quite convenient to have all that information at a glance. I still double-check my accounts individually, but it's very handy having it all there.
  • It encourages me to save. I've got my savings goal clearly laid out, and is cheering me on. I don't know why, but that makes me feel very special. The friend who recommended this program to me said that he's saved my regularly and just more than ever before since he started using mint.
  • If you go over in any budget category, it sends you an email warning. This is handy because you can't hide your head in the sand and ignore what you've done. Even if you're lazy about signing into mint, it still keeps you updated.

  • It doesn't calculate negative balances on credit cards. I frequently overpay my visa card, mostly because it's the card I use the least, and I don't want to miss a payment. Also, since it is the card I use the least, it often gets used for more fun things. What's more fun than a credit balance? Answer: nothing. Except sees something other than zero, and thinks it's debt, which ruins my good time.
  • Syncing issues. For whatever reason, I could not get to sync with my store credit card. It just wouldn't happen. Funnily enough, that is the one card that I would really, really like to be reminded to pay because I rarely use it, and therefore have forgotten it in the past. I'm going to keep trying, but man is that annoying.
  • It's a bit alarmist. I know I also listed the email warnings for going over budget as a positive, but there's a drawback as well. Example: I recently went to a gas station, and put in $30 worth of gas. Because I paid at the pump, the gas station did the thing where they put a $100 hold on your card while waiting for the actual charge to clear. These pending charges go to, which then sends me a frantic email telling me that I just spent $100 on gas. I know my car doesn't hold that much gas, and I know I only spent $30, but I still had to log into all my accounts and figure out what was going on, which ate up a bit of time. I wish that it would ignore pending charges and wait until they've officially posted before freaking out at me.
  • If you don't charge most things, it can be a bit tedious to update. Obviously all bank and credit card transactions update automatically, but if you use cash most often, you need to manually enter that information, which means it could be very easy to forget/skip. It took me a bit of looking to find out how to even enter that stuff in the first place, but once I figured it out, it was simple.
  • No refunds? I bought two pairs of shoes this month from (on the quest for the black shoes), but I returned them both. notices that my credit card had been refunded the money, but it didn't reduce the glaring red line that indicated I'd exceeded my clothing budget to the more subdued yellow line that doesn't assault my vision. I couldn't figure out a way to tell it that the items had been returned, so I just told that they were duplicates. Having to do that kind of ruins the automaticness of the whole thing, but maybe if I'd just been more patient, it would have worked itself out.
Just like when I started with this, I'm still keeping my backup budget, but I'm getting more and more sold. Since it is so automatic, I'm spending very little extra time keeping up both systems, so why not just do it that way? I think this is a very good system for people who are less-than-meticulous about keeping a budget just because it does so much for you. I think it may also send email reminders when a bill is coming due, but I always pay bills so early that I haven't gotten one of those yet--anyone know if this is an actual feature, or did I totally make it up in my head?

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