How to Get the Most out of Personal Finance Software




A little setup time leads to big convenience later.

Personal finance software exists to make life simpler. At least that's the idea. But with so many features and possibilities, the low-maintenance budgeter might stick to the basics and miss out on something better.

Learning to use your budgeting software takes a bit of time on the front end, but the payoff is a better understanding of your finances, more control, and a surprising amount of freedom.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

Set up Alerts for Almost Anything

Mint.com's alerts give you a heads up about almost anything. When it's closing in on a bill's due date, you'll know with time to spare. If a late fee has landed, it won't have to be a surprise when you open a bill or log into that account. You can set up alerts that are triggered when interest rates drop or a better deal on a credit card or loan is available than one you've got.

Alerts can be sent as a text message to your phone, as an email, or both. Adjust the timing and frequency, dollar amounts, and other particulars to customize an alert system that works perfectly for the way you manage money.

Create Your Own Categories

Mint budget software comes with over 100 categories pre-loaded, but you don't have to play by everyone else's rules. Customization means you can create all new categories, or keep some of the standard ones and add any others that suit your needs.

For example, you might want to break down shopping into smaller categories for groceries, pet supplies, lawn and garden, and clothing. When you make a purchase, Mint's smart interface applies it to the right category every time.


Mobile means your budget is never out of reach.

Add Mobile to Keep Track of Spending on the Go

Mobile makes budgeting simple, fast, and convenient. Wherever you go, your budget goes along, too. There's no more wondering whether your budget has room for something you've found on sale, and an unexpected night out with friends is easier when you know what you can spend without fear of an overdraft fee or over-the-limit charge on a credit card.

Even better, you can have the app on more than one smartphone or tablet. This feature lets every person who contributes to and is responsible for the budget keep track of purchases, all on the same account.

Keep an Eye on Investments

Mint.com doesn't stop with money in and money out; it also helps you keep track of investments. With your whole investment portfolio in your hands, you can quickly see whether your investments are doing well, which ones might need attention, and how your choices compare to investments others are making.

Mint can even make investment suggestions based on your personal investing style and goals. And if your brokerage firm happens to tuck away a fee in the fine print, Mint will let you know.

Use Graphs to See the Bigger Picture

Budget software lets you drill down to see itemized areas of your budget, but it also lets you step back and get a clear picture of your personal finances as a whole. Handy graphs reveal almost any segment that you want, the way you want to see it. And it does this in plain language.

Learn your personal net worth, examine individual accounts, learn where discretionary spending happens most, watch for trends with your spending and saving habits, and discover things you might otherwise overlook.

Budget software can serve many people in many different ways. For some, straightforward income and expense reporting and bill itemization is all you need. But if you want to get the most out of your program, check out all the features, learn how to customize, and let Mint.com put you in complete control of your personal finances.

Sign up for your free account today!