Manage Your Money:

Manage Your Money:

Grace Shu
Mar 20, 2009

Mornings are usually our time to read the paper blogs to stay on top of the news. Lately though, we've been skipping over certain news stories (anything with "Octo-Mom" or "Lohan" in the title), and we have to admit...We're kinda, sorta...tired about reading about how crap the economy is. What we do like reading about are success stories of people who are stretching their budgets during this tough time. After all, if there's going to be a silver lining to this global financial crisis, shouldn't it be how we're all learning to save money and budget wisely? Since tax time is right around the corner, we've recently discovered this online service called Mint that helps monitor personal finances, track investments, and offer ways to save and get out of debt. And did we mention that it's free?

Our favorite features:

- Mint's online budgeting tools is geared towards giving you as much info as possible to create realistic goals for yourself, especially when it comes to cutting back on expenses. For example: A few years back, we used to frequent the local coffee shop in the mornings on a regular 3-4 times a week (if not more). When we finally sat down to calculate how much we were spending on something as mundane as coffee, we realized that we were blowing around $60 per month to keep ourselves caffeinated when it would have cost about $12 to pick up coffee beans at the grocery store. Yearly savings: around $500.

- If you're a frequent user of the debit card, things can get a little hectic when it comes to bookkeeping. Mint connects directly to your bank, credit card, and even investment accounts and is updated automatically. You can actually see what your average spending is per category.

- When it comes to staying on track, sometimes a reminder is all you need. We're notoriously bad about sticking to our goals without some kind of help (just ask our workout partner, sigh). Another great feature about Mint is that if you do set up your budget, like "I will only spend $100 a month on eating out," and you happen to be naughty and exceed it, Mint will send you an email (or text message if you have the Mint app downloaded to your iPhone) to yell at you. OK, well, maybe not "yell" as much as it's a polite reminder that you overindulged somewhere.

- And finally: Got student loans, a car payment, a few credit cards, a mortgage...any of those? Do you know the interest rate on all of them? Mint will show you exactly how much you've borrowed in addition to the interest rate and balance on all of your outstanding debts...just so you can compare and pay off the most expensive loans first. Also, the program will notify you when fees and finance charges are being automatically taken out of your account by a bank of brokerage firm...Random factoid: An average American pays more than $250 in these "hidden fees" each year.

Check out all the features at!

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