Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fun with Money

No really. Thanks to ProfHacker, I was reminded of Mint.com, a site for tracking your money that I heard about on NPR. The problem with hearing about web sites on the radio in the car: no internets in the car. Last week, I signed up for an account and pulled in all my various accounts. I still have to pull in the retirement account, but am planning on it today. It is soooo much fun and so informative to have all of my accounts--savings, credit, loans, investment--all in one place. I can see at a glance where my money is, what's coming in and what's going out. The coolest thing about the site for me was the way it decided on categories based on the name of the company listed in a transaction. It was about 95% accurate. It was easy enough to spot the things that were off and correct them.

Even more exciting are the graphs and pie charts. Here's an example of one from my account (without numbers):
You can click on each slice to drill down into the category further. So, for example, that orange slice up there, that's shopping. When I click on it, I get this pie chart:

That's a thin slice of books and the rest for clothes. Clicking on a slice that has no subcategories takes you to the transaction itself. This is how I found inaccuracies in categories. I would see a huge slice for something like movies and then clicking on that slice would show me that they'd categorized cable as movies or something like that.

I find being able to visualize my spending and drill down to find exactly where the money goes extremely helpful. I know Quicken and other programs like it did this in the past, but the categories often had to be done manually and it was complicated to set up multiple accounts. I felt like you needed a degree in accounting to do it successfully. Mint, by contrast, is dead simple, relying on data your banks already keep. Since we're down to one income with my own income coming sporadically, keeping track of our spending is more important than ever. I've already found some places to cut more corners, and I'm actually enjoying the process of managing our finances. Who knew!

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