Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 20, 2012
Ok, first off I will admit: I’m a financial tracking addict. I currently publish my net worth on this blog every two months and I also have been doing an experiment on tracking all of my spending since last November. This recently lead me to try out Mint Canada after hearing about it for a while, after all I’m all about using any tool that makes my life easier.
First off let’s set the record straight on a few things: yes Mint pulls data from all your various bank accounts and pools it together into one place for tracking purposes. Yet it doesn’t allow you to do anything with those accounts. You can’t do a bank transfer in Mint, its read only on a secure system.
Now with that out of the way, why on earth would you do this? It saves a hell of a lot of time. Currently to do my net worth updates requires doing five separate logins to different online sites get the data I need. Mint pulls the majority of that data together for me automatically. Out of all my logins it can’t handle one account, which is my pension plan (which isn’t even on a bank website, so I can forgive them).
On top of that Mint is intelligent enough to guess what categories your spending belong to based on where the transaction occurred, so a payment to my mortgage is automatically assigned the category of ‘Mortgage/Rent’. This also applies to your credit card transactions if you link those in, so a charge to ‘Chapters/Indigo’ shows up as ‘Shopping, Books’. While this system isn’t perfect it does get the majority of the items correctly assigned. You can also change the category for those expenses that Mint can’t figure out.
Getting started is damn easy, add your accounts access and then your assets (like house value) and see what Mint spits out. I loaded everything up in less than an hour (which included some issues on my end). You might have to correct a few things, but generally it will load the last two months fairly correct when you start. Then you can track your spending by categories as well as income and net worth. Using the ‘Trends’ section lets you graph your little heart out and even export data if you want.
There is also a section on budgets to help guide your spending by category if you would like to load that information and tracking as well. I haven’t use this much yet.
Yet despite all this usefulness Mint Canada does have a few issues that you might want to know about. First off you can’t add manual or fake transactions to complete your net worth if you are missing an particular bank. So that prevents you from loading previous data that you might personally already have. There is a bit of a work around you can manage by adding an extra asset with the value of that account to get your full net worth.
The other quirk I came across was the fact when dividends show up in my investment accounts that doesn’t show up as income. I had to create a new income category to allow tracking of that. Odd, but easily fixed. Also joint accounts will tend to show up twice, which means you will need to exclude a particular account from showing up twice in Mint.
Overall I’m thrilled with the time saving nature of Mint Canada, it makes tracking expense and income very easy and saves a lot of work with spreadsheets that people tend to do manually. It does have a few odd things that you might need to work around, but overall it works for my needs and I’m happy I finally signed up. I only wish I would have started using it back in November of last year so I would have more data.
So do you use Mint Canada, what did you think? Or if you don’t, would you try it?