I remember when Johnny and I first heard about Mint a few years ago. We wondered what kind of witchcraft had made a site that compiled all of our moneys and put them in one place — automagically? We were stunned, giddy, and way too excited about something so nerdy.
But for how excited we were for Mint, we haven’t ended up using it as frequently as we thought we would. Johnny and I both have Mint on our phones, and
we he looks at it a few times a month. We use it to see our account balances at the end of each month and to record them on a trusty spreadsheet that tracks our net worth. But even though Mint seems like the ultimate budgeting app, we don’t actually use it for budgeting. We know lots of people do, including some of you, but Johnny and I have found a few sticking points with Mint that we just can’t seem to shake.
No Pain, No Gain
I remember a poster that used to hang in the exercise room at my house growing up. NO PAIN NO GAIN it read in bold letters. It left a lasting impression only because it seemed kind of dramatic. And while the phrase still doesn’t make me want to go run a marathon, I think it applies pretty well to how Johnny and I approach budgeting.
With Mint, we don’t feel the hurt of each expense. Mint does the budgeting for us. But Johnny and I need to do more than just swipe a plastic card every time we spend money. We need to enter that expense into our budget ourselves. I need to be reminded, “Yes, Joanna, you just spent money on a Costco-sized bag of Starbursts.” And unless we checked Mint every day and categorized our expenses, our budgeting would be passive, rather than active. There’d be no pain.
But with our manual budgeting app, we have a reason to check it each and every time we spend money. We quickly enter the expense in our app, and it reminds us where we are for the month. We need that hands-on budgeting experience. Not everyone does. We’ve tried the passive approach in the past, and we go over budget every single time. We still look at Mint at the end of the month as a good overview, but during the month, it’s not active enough to influence our spending habits.
I once worked for a woman who had the uncanny ability of getting her computer to freeze. And each time it happened, she felt the need to inform me, “It’s thinking.” But that’s the problem. Computers don’t think, which means that sometimes Mint makes mistakes. I know, how dare a free program ever make mistakes?! The main mistake is that Mint sometimes duplicates our expenses. For instance, we’ll pay off our credit cards each month, but sometimes Mint sees that as an expense, rather than a payoff, which then doubles our expenses. Thus, the automatic categorizing doesn’t work very well for us. And deleting those messed up expenses becomes rather cumbersome. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a big deal if Johnny and I didn’t have control issues, but we do, and so it bugs us. Without this problem, Mint would be even more painless, which would be an even bigger problem for us!
And so, we continue to budget manually. And while Mint will always have a special place in our budgeting hearts and on our smartphones, we don’t use it as our main budgeting app. We just gotta feel the pain, and Mint, you make things way too easy.
How do you feel about Mint? You lovers of Mint out there, let’s hear why it works for you!