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In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube, Mint.com, Etsy, and more. Check back every Monday for tips on topics from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.
Hi I am Jess Stratton, welcome to Monday productivity pointers, this week we are talking about mint.com. Mint is a cloud service that pulls in all you accounts from all your financial institutions such as checking accounts, student loans, auto loans, investment accounts, and home equity lines and mortgages It pools in all that information, and then spits it back at you in an easy to read way. It computes the big picture of your financial status. Now, I personally use mint.com for all my financial statuses, and that's why today I'm going to be talking about some of the strategies that I used so that you can use them and make transitioning to Mint services as easy as possible.
Now it's really important to note here, that mint.com is a read only service, that means that it can pool in all your information and spit it back to you, and tell you how you stand, but it can't make any transactions on your behalf, and it won't make any transactions. In fact, if you want to try it out, mint.com has a demo account that you can use before you sign up for their services. In fact, to protect my accounts, we're going to be using that demo account today. Alright. Enough talking. Let's get started. The first thing I'm going to do is show you how to get to that demo account.
In the Google search bar here, just so you can see it, because it changes once you type it into the URL bar, I've typed it in for you. This is the URL to access the demo account, there's no log in needed. Now once you punch that in, this is where you're going to end up. This is the home screen of mint.com to which you can see all your accounts here on the left hand side. Now remember, we're using mint's dummy account here. And any alerts, such as high spending. So the first thing that you need to do, when you're sign up to mint and you've got nothing here on the left hand side is to import all your account information.
Now, the easiest way I've found to do it is get out a piece of paper and a pencil, and actually write down all the accounts that you want to add. For example if you have a car, a student loan, or a bank account. I personally found that the more accounts I got into Mint, the better it was easy for me to see my big financial picture. So, I wrote down all those accounts. And, then I could either do a Google search, or look at my statements for those accounts to find out what the URL is to get to their online service provider.
I've got some samples up here. For example, here's Well's Fargo dealer services, which is a popular auto loan. Their service for online banking is called eServices. So I can see down here at the bottom, there's this link, it says, to get started, register for eServices. Because I've got my car loan and before I can import a username and a password for that account into Mint, I actually have to make sure I got a username and a password for this online service, so I'll register for that one, cross up my car loan or write down the username and the password that I've setup for that and then move on to my next account.
So up here I've got a student loan, which is under the service American Education Services. And I can see on their homepage, I can either sign in over here on the left, if I don't already have an online account through them I can click this Create Account button. So that'll walk you through setting up their accounts. Now don't forget, you'll need to do things like, verify your information, such as, put in your social security. Every online financial institution, is going to have a different signup process, but all of them will walk you through it easily.
Finally, I'll do my bank. So here's the Bank of America site, and right here on their homepage they have a huge Enroll Now button to sign up. So that'll get you enrolled in their online banking site. So that was step one. We wrote down all our financial institutions, all our loans. And we made sure we had online accounts with them. Now that we have our list of username and passwords. We can go back to Mint, and start putting them in. So I'm going to click this Account button here in the top right. And it's going to bring me to the Add Account screen.
Now, here's the accounts that that mint financial dummy data already had put in. Once all your accounts are listed, they'll look something like this. It will tell you what the financial instruction is, it will tell you what it's for. It will tell you what your username is. It's not going to tell you what your password is, but it will tell you what your current balance is with that account. And from there you can delete it if you don't want to see it anymore. But I want to add an account so I'm going to come up here and click this big orange button. So, the first thing I need to do is put in my financial institution's name or URL.
Now remember, this is where you're going to put the name, one at a time, of all those accounts that you just signed up for. For example, the bank holder of your car loan, such as, Wells Fargo dealer services, or your student loan. So, we had Bank of America, so I can click on Bank of America, and in all the results, I'm going to find the actual bank that I'm looking for, and click on it. Now I get a simple screen in which I can just put in the online ID and passcode that I just created for that particular financial institution.
So all these IDs and passwords are going to be different for each site. For example, I might have a completely different user ID and password for my car loan online than I did for my bank. So once I put those in and click Add it. I'm going to hit the back button in this case because this is the sample one and I'm not actually adding anything new, I can click close to come out of this screen. And here is where I will see the big picture of all my accounts. For example, here's all my cash accounts and credit accounts and loans. So, once we've got all our accounts in there, it's time to start editing transactions.
This is the last step in my grading, and it's one of those things that you'll have to do once and then it's done. I'm going to click on the transactions button and it's going to bring me to all my line items statements for all these accounts. now this may look familiar to you, it's going to look just like, a statement account. All my line item transactions. So what we are going to do is start smoothing these things out Now, Mint.com actually does a really good job of guessing what category all these items are going to be in.
But sometimes it gets them wrong or sometimes you want to fine tune them to make it easier. You don't have to go through and change these categories every month. We can set rules on them. For example, here's all my line item statements of where I went. And over here is the categories that mint.com put them under. So if I want to see how much I spent on fast food for the month, I can click on the Fast Food category. Or how much I spent on movies and DVDs. So let's take one, and change it.
Here's an entry, the statement name is TCBY, which is a popular frozen yogurt shop. It categorized it under restaurants but I want to fine tune that, so I'm going to click on this item and come down here to Edit Details, I could simply change the category right from here, but there's more that I want to to do it. So I will see how it actually looks on the statement but I can also set a rule to it, so I am going to change the category, I am going to go to the Food & Dining category and instead of restaurants I am going to fine tune it and mark it as Fast Food, but here is what gets really neat, I can set a rule, for example I can always rename TCBY and categorize it as fast food.
I'm going to place a check mark and it's going to tell me that there's eight other TCBY line items in there that's also going to be categorized. And now any incoming transactions for that will also be categorized. Now you can do this for incoming transactions. But we can also do it for outgoing transactions. This is what makes it really useful. I'm going to click Manage Rules. We can do this for checks, as well. Now checks are hard to set rules to, because the check number changes every time. For example, in your statement, it may show up as check number 333 or check number 754.
So it's hard for you to know what those are for. But mint knows that if you write a check every month, and there's an outgoing check for $750. You can add a payee to that and call it rent. And actually set a category to it. I'm going to click Edit. So this is where you could change them to how you wanted them to be. When I'm all done managing my rules, I can click OK. In this case, I can just close out of it and hit Cancel. But in any line items, wherever you see checks that are outgoing, you can set rules on those.
For example, any check for $23 can be renamed to trash and changed to a category of utility. So then you'll know that, that's an outgoing check every month for $23. So, now you know that you don't have to rename these items every statement month. If you spend about one hour upfront and go through one month's worth of transactions to set your names and categories for reoccurring items, all your future mint.com experiences will be helpful, like it was meant to be used.
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