Budget Categories, Tags, & Organization

Easy to personalize

We have hundreds of default categories, and it’s easy to rename or re-categorize any transaction as you please. You can even add your own and have Mint apply them to the same future charges.

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You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget (YNAB) has become a popular option among the DIY personal finance crowd. It’s more expensive – $60 for Windows or Mac – but offers a 34-day full-featured free trial.

You Need a Budget works on four simple financial rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job.
  2. Save for a rainy day.
  3. Roll with the punches.
  4. Live on last month’s income.

So unlike other tools that simply aggregate your transactions and track your spending, YNAB actively helps you get better with budgeting. YNAB offers free online classes to get you started on this budgeting journey.

YNAB syncs between your desktop and your mobile device, and allows you to enter transactions on your mobile device in real-time.

YNAB pros:

  • You’ll give every dollar a job, so all of your money is accounted for.
  • Free 34-day trial so you can see if it’s the best app for you.
  • Plenty of educational tools.
  • You can easily make (and reach) savings goals.

YNAB cons:

  • After the 34-day trial, you will have to pay a premium to use the service.

Learn more about YNAB or read our full review

MoneyPatrol

MoneyPatrol combines the best parts of other popular finance tools to let you use the features you like best. You do have to put a little more work in initially to input all your favorite budget categories, but in the end, it’s well worth it.

With MoneyPatrol, you link all your financial accounts and let MoneyPatrol monitor your spending. From there, you’ll have a dashboard that shows you all your recent transactions, along with your overall spending trends. You can use this information to learn more about the money you’re spending, which really comes in useful when it’s time to create a budget.

Once you’re ready to set a budget, MoneyPatrol walks you through the process, letting you set spending limits for each category. The app then watches your spending and alerts you if you go over that limit. Over time, you can adjust your budget as needed to match what you can more realistically do.

But one of the best things about MoneyPatrol’s alerts is that they grow more sophisticated over time. MoneyPatrol learns your spending habits and not only notifies you when you’ve gone over within a budget category but also lets you know when suspicious activity is detected.

MoneyPatrol pros:

  • Expenses monitored automatically.
  • Notifications learn your behaviors and alerts become more accurate over time.
  • Budget category limits help keep you on track.
  • Easy-to-use visual dashboard keeps everything in one place.

MoneyPatrol cons:

  • You’ll need to manually input budget categories.
  • It takes time to learn all the app’s features.

Learn more about MoneyPatrol or read our full review.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It’s free! Enough said.
  • Super easy to use for tracking spending and setting savings goals.
  • Robust security features give you peace of mind when disclosing financial data.
  • Highly rated iPhone and Android apps; also works on Microsoft Windows and Amazon mobile devices.
  • Free credit score monitoring (even if it’s just one bureau).

Cons

  • Getting marketed to with external products can become annoying.
  • Limited customer support options (not 24/7).
  • No real investment or savings functionality. You cannot move your money; only track it.
  • No direct bill pay service; you’d still have to pay bills outside app.

Recent Articles

Cons of the Mint Budget App

There are a few hang-ups we have with Mint. The first involves security. Last year, we reported on tax filing software that was vulnerable to fraud. TurboTax was one of the programs listed that did not use any identity theft protection. Since Intuit owns both Mint and TurboTax, we are wary despite their claims of high security.

Additionally, one of our employees who tried the app noticed that her cash flows section was rarely accurate. Because of the way her Direct Deposit paychecks were scheduled, Mint always told her that she was spending way more than what she was making. The lack of accuracy sometimes put her on edge about her bank account balances.

Accuracy can also be a problem if you’re self-employed. The monthly budget feature works best for those with a steady and predictable income and can be more difficult for freelancers or business owners. And if you need help, many reviewers said you can’t count on Mint’s customer service, which received 1 out of 5 stars on GetHuman.com.

Automation can also cause issues for people who aren’t used to budgeting. Instead of truly learning to budget, automatic categorization can take away some of that responsibility and make it more difficult to learn.

Then there’s the investment feature. For full disclosure, we have to admit that we didn’t try Mint’s investing features. Investor Junkie gave Mint a score of 8.5/10. They said that its investing section is “simplistic at best,” so this app might not be the best choice if you are looking for something investment-focused.

Investments

Mint's graphical investment reports are uncomplicated, yet detailed enough to keep most people in touch with their portfolio. They include reports for performance, value, asset allocation, comparison to market indices, and more. You can select time frames ranging from one day to one year from the day you started tracking investments.

Pros

  • Link all of your financial accounts in one place
  • Allows you to set up notifications and alerts
  • Free credit score access
  • The app is free

10) Banktivity

Banktivity claims their users save an average of $500 a year and 40 hours of time. That’s definitely not something to shake a stick at.

Where Banktivity shines brightest is their bill pay options and debt management tools. While most online banks also have bill pay, one of Banktivity’s best features is that it allows users to pay bills from more than one bank account. Bills can also be integrated, so you don’t have to hunt down your monthly utility bills.

Unfortunately, Banktivity is only for Mac users, but it is a helpful tool for individuals who want to customize their budget. For instance, if you want to pay your mortgage from “Bank Account A” and your child’s tuition bill from “Bank Account B,” you can do that with Banktivity.

The software also allows users to get granular with their categories by using customizable tags. So, if you want to break down your vacation fund by food costs, transportation expenses, and activities, this feature is super useful.

Try Banktivity free for 30 days. After that, plans range from $49.99 to $99.99 per year when you pay annually.

Get Started with Banktivity

Getting Started with Intuit Mint

To sign up for a Mint account, click the orange Sign Up button in the top-right corner of your web browser.

Next, you’ll have to create an Intuit account by entering your basic personal information. You’ll then be asked to link your external financial accounts by logging into them from the Mint portal.

If you download the app, you’ll go through a similar registration process on your iOS or Android mobile device.

Categorization

The app assigns budget expense categories automatically to transactions as they come in. The automatic categorization is accurate, for the most part, but you can easily edit transactions if you want to rename or recategorize them. Splitting a transaction among categories is easy as well. You can also add optional tags to transactions for more detailed financial reports or budgets.

A Short History Of

Mint.com, headquartered in San Francisco, California, was founded in 2006 by Aaron Patzer. Pratzer’s fascination with computers already arose from an early age.

By the time he was 15, he had already launched his first company, a web development service for local businesses. After high school, he pursued 3 Computer Science and Engineering majors at Duke University.

He eventually added some Accounting classes to be able to better handle his taxes with regards to the web development services he offered.

To keep his books up to date, he had to download his own Quicken Loans ledger every Sunday. That meant downloading each and every transaction (of which he had hundreds in a week), manually categorizing them, and find efficient ways for storage.

Post-graduation (he added on a Master’s degree at Princeton), Pratzer worked as a software engineer at companies such as IBM.  

Patzer eventually moved to San Francisco to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Having saved up $50,000 gave him the necessary cushion to build up a network in the Valley. Mint’s very first employee, Matthew Snider, became a friend of Patzer’s during a group hiking trip.

In March 2006, Patzer and a small team of software engineers started working on Mint. They spent the first 7 months working tirelessly, often putting in 14-hour workdays.

In the meantime, Patzer pitched his idea to about 50 investors who all declined to contribute. But eventually, his efforts would pay off. Josh Kopelman from First Round Capital, with who Patzer had dinner, became the startup’s first investor after seeing an early product demo.

Unfortunately, there was still one roadblock ahead of the startup’s way. Patzer initially named the company MyMint, paying $3,000 to get the rights to the domain name mymint.com. But he immediately realized that the mint.com domain would be far more valuable from a branding perspective.

The problem was that, at the time, the domain was occupied by an investment banker who owned an investment fund named Mint Investments for some time. At first, he wasn’t willing to sell, but Mint’s investors eventually persuaded him to do so.

They offered him equity in the startup’s Series A round (instead of a cash payment) and assured him that he’d be the only New-York-based investment manager they let in. That somehow appealed to his ego. Later, he would even invest in Mint’s Series B and C round after ten folding his investment from the initial round.

With the domain issues being resolved, Mint, which is short for Money Intelligence, was ready for launch. Mint.com went live at the end of 2007 after months of development.

Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine

The team deployed a few growth hacks that were essential to get the business off the ground. First, they launched a separate personal finance blog a few months prior. That allowed them to build up an email list of over 20,000 members, which they could use to build up excitement for Mint.

Second, Patzer made himself as accessible as possible to the media. He did over 550 interviews, both prior to as well as after the launch. And he didn’t shy away from going after smaller players, for instance doing interviews for high school newspapers.

The event that ultimately paved the way for Mint’s success became TechCrunch40. Mint became the best-presenting company, earning $50,000 in award money as well as national media coverage.

The exposure propelled Mint’s business into new heights, allowing them to sign up close to 50,000 users which held a combined $2 billion across all their accounts. Mint was able to raise a $4.7 million Series A on the backbone of that coverage.

A year later, Mint had already amassed a user base of 300,000. Apart from the initial coverage, its product was simply superior to other existing solutions, such as Intuit’s Quicken Loans. Compared to the market incumbents, Mint’s platform was extremely easy to set up and navigate.

In September 2009, after 2 years of hockey stick growth, Mint was acquired by financial software giant Intuit for a whopping $170 million. Patzer joined Intuit as a Director of Product Innovation as part of the acquisition.

He was tasked with leading Intuit’s entire personal finance division, which not only included Mint, but other tools such as TurboTax or Quicken Loans. Ironically enough, Patzer spent the years prior bashing how bad of a product Quicken was.

Being under Intuit’s umbrella allowed Mint to continue expanding its user base. In 2010, it prompted Quicken users to switch over to Mint, which would allow them to preserve all of their account history and account connections.

By mid-2012, Mint had already more than 10 million users on its platform. Intuit’s existing bank deals allowed Mint to expand from 8,000 to 15,000 partner institutions.

That same year Patzer decided to leave Intuit and start another business. He launched Fountain, a service that matched users with qualified professionals, such as lawyers or doctors. The company was sold to Porch.com in October 2015.

Another reason for his departure became the speed with which a large organization like Intuit was able to innovate. The slow development efforts had also affected the speed of innovation and product quality at Mint.

The platform still suffers from bugs that users have highlighted throughout the years. For instance, the platform continues to frequently miscategorize transactions, no integration with TurboTax, or problems exporting transactions from certain sources.

Despite these hiccups, the Mint.com platform boasts over 20 million users (according to a blog post in 2016).

In 2021, Intuit announced that it had essentially replaced most of Mint’s leadership team and planned to commit more resources to the platform. As a result, its app underwent a complete redesign.

The Bottom Line

Mint provides multiple ways for you to create and manage a budget. It’s noted for its simplicity and informative overview of your finances, and it is free to try. 

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