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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mint Canada Review or How to Enable a Tracking Habit

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?

Comments

9 Responses to “Mint Canada Review or How to Enable a Tracking Habit”
  1. Geoff says:

    I’ve used Mint for almost 2 years and find it a great way to see all our transactions in one place.

    However, I too have found the budgeting section a bit limited.

    What I would really like is to be able to project forward to get an idea of where we might be at the end of the year and not just where we’ve been.

    But, at this stage, all I can do for this is download the monthly category totals, slap them into a spreadsheet and manually project them forward.

    I’d love to see a feature like this in Mint, so here’s hoping.

  2. Poor Student says:

    I love Mint. Personally I can spend a lot of time creating a graph for every piece of data Mint has. I do not budget or keep track of my spending so I really like that every few weeks I just log into Mint and look back and I can see all the stupid things I spent money on. And I have a game with myself to make sure that the net worth and net income graphs only increase from now on. This will be tough to do once my tuition payments come due, but I still really like it.

  3. Jacq says:

    I’ve used the tracking that comes with my bank for the last couple of years. Love it but it’s a little bit fiddly with the net worth calculations which is ok because I don’t monitor it that closely anyway (I’m more focused on replacement income).

    If I was with a different bank though, I’d consider Mint.

    What’s neat is that when you get a couple of years of data under your belt, it’s quite remarkable to see how consistent spending is (or can be) – and the “annual” figures that come with some things like cable or travel make you consider whether the value you’ve received from them was really worth it. Much harder to see that when you’re looking at a monthly or irregular view.

    I don’t monitor different budget categories but try to stay within a certain amount on a monthly basis. So far this year am running less than 0.8% over budget… :-P

  4. David S says:

    This sounds like a great way to follow your spending and how your investments are doing. Only one problem and that is that this takes place, online! Maybe it is my age but I never put any personal financial information on the computer. Other than that this site sounds and looks great!

  5. Tim Stobbs says:

    Thanks everyone for your feedback, it’s good to know what others think.

    Jacq – I agree that a annual data set will be nice to have those conversations with my wife. I’m used to the monthly data, but the annual is a bit more shocking.

    I’ve also learned is you can’t hide stuff on Mint from yourself. For example, my June spending was insanely high (~$11,000) until I realized what had happened. Some of July spending technically occurred on the last day of June and boosted that number up and dropped July’s down (mainly mortgage prepayments, but also property taxes).

    Tim

  6. Josh says:

    I did use Mint for a while, but grew uncomfortable with giving them my bank password when I read my bank’s terms of service. It turns out they explicitly limit their liability if your account is compromised and they find out you have given your password to another person/organization. Given that Mint logs in on your behalf there would be no way to hide the fact you gave out your password, which might mean you are responsible for any losses in your account if it is hacked.

    I’d start using it again it if would let me upload my data myself, rather than it going directly to my bank.

  7. Steve says:

    I personally use Microsoft Money 2000 (an old version I know!) and have been using it over a decade.

    Like Tim – I love tracking our spending and am a big fan of the reporting features that allow me to view as little or as much as I want for any time period I want.

    I agree that yearly rollups are very illuminating. I have one report that rolls up all categories by year and I can tell at a glance how our spending in any given category has shifted higher or lower over the years.

    Not sure I would ever use Mint as I also don’t like the idea of sharing my passwords online. I’m content enough downloading the info into MS Money and working with the file there.

  8. Sheryl says:

    I’m still using Quicken, and am very happy with it. A friend recently wanted something to track his finances with, and as so many people here have such good things to say about Mint, I suggested he try it.
    He had similar growing pains that I had with Quicken, but once he learned the system, he loves it (and the fact he can track on the go on his phone with their mobile app).

  9. Rob Madrid says:

    I spent many years tracking all my spending while getting out of debt. Once we got out of debt I started getting lazy, but once we got serious about savings I started up again.

    I looked at all the online programs mint quicken but they were too complicated, all I wanted was to track a few main expenses, gas shopping and misc. So I went with the uSpend app for iPhone. and I love it, simple and easy to use and can do all kinds of cool stuff, which I can’t be bother with.

    As to net worth I simply downloaded an excel spreadsheet (why go to the work when someone else already has) and tract it there.

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