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Mint.com Sunsets & Why YNAB Excels
The Death of Mint.com – Do you want to manage your money better? Just about everyone listening to this podcast would say, “absolutely.” This is the reason why Mint.com started in 2007 – to give people a slick and convenient way to manage their finances. If you’re not familiar with Mint, it is a free service that links to your bank accounts, credit card accounts, and investment account. You could access it as an app on your phone or you could log in via a web browser on your desktop or laptop. Ideally, you would log in every day or every few days to see new transactions of spending and deposits that cleared in these accounts and you would assign each transaction to a category. You could also build a budget in Mint that would then compare your actual spending with the spending you targeted in your budget. The premise behind it is great – take control of your money by being aware of how you are spending it – and lots of people gave it a try. According to Bloomberg, the app had 3.6 million users in 2021.
So why did Mint’s Parent, Intuit, announce that the app was being discontinued as of January 1, 2024? Apparently, because it wasn’t making any money. The app was free to use, so Intuit had to rely on advertisers to generate revenue. An ad might pop up for a Bank of America checking account while you were logged into Mint, and if you clicked on it or opened an account, Intuit got paid. It seems most people ignored the ads. So now, Mint is no more and certain functions of Mint are transitioning to Credit Karma, another financial app that helps you monitor your finances. Now one of the reasons this news is of particular interest to me is because I used Mint for years. But I moved away from it in December of 2022 for few reasons. First of all, it felt inflexible. They had a template, and as long as you worked within that template, it worked fine. But if you wanted to customize your finances, I found it difficult to use. Also, the integration would break at times, causing frustration, and at times lost transactions and even duplicate transactions. As a result, I made the move to YNAB.
YNAB stands for You Need a Budget. Now I was hesitant to go with YNAB because there is a yearly subscription fee – but it has been a wonderful experience over the last year. YNAB is incredibly flexible. You can build whatever categories you want. One of my favorite features about YNAB is that it puts all of your new transactions into a “New Transactions” section of the app. You can take less than 5 minutes each day to review these new transactions and either approve them if they are correctly categorized (YNAB remembers how you categorized certain transactions in the past) or it allows you to change the category. In Mint, I could never remember where I left off, and pending transactions often were convoluted with cleared transactions. YNAB won’t put a transaction into the “new transaction” category until it has cleared. User support on YNAB is also top notch. Reports are easy to read. And the concept of YNAB is to take every dollar that comes through it and to assign it a home. You are building virtual envelopes, so you always know how much money is left in every category. You can shift amounts across categories, but you never wonder whether you have enough money each month, because you can see exactly how much you have put in that virtual envelope. If you’ve used Mint in the past, I’d encourage you to pony up the money and try YNAB. It will be worth it. They give you a 34 day free trial, then you can pay $99 for the whole year, which breaks down to about $8 per month. So here are a few lessons I think we can take from the winding down of Mint:
Lesson #1 – If you are an advertiser, be aware that if you are interrupting a user’s experience on a program with your ads, you might cause more frustration than awareness. I don’t think people clicked on Mint’s ads because they were there to view their money and ads slowed them down from doing so. Be strategic in getting people’s attention with your advertising and try to leave a good taste in their mouth. Ideally, try to advertise in such a way that you are adding value to the lives of those who listen.
Lesson #2 – Don’t always fall for free. Milton Friedman used to say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. There’s always a cost – it’s just a matter of who is paying it. If advertisers are paying the cost, then you are going to see lots and lots of ads. If you can deal with that, then good for you. But there is still a cost for you of time and distraction. You must decide which is more costly, a monthly subscription or the time of working around ads.
Lesson #3 – You usually get out in proportion to what you put in. A slick budgeting app alone is not going to revolutionize your life any more than an exercise training plan alone. These are tools, and you have to make up your mind that you are going to use them. If you don’t like where you are financially, there really is a better way by being more engaged in your spending and saving habits. But it will take time and effort. Don’t look to a budging app to change your financial habits. It’s a valuable tool, but it has to be put to use.
At MBC/Foundation bank we believe that having a great banking partner is another tool to have in your arsenal as you look to be a good steward of what you have. Technology can give you data, but people are the ones that help you put that data to use. Since 1934 we’ve been helping people make financial decisions consistent with their financial goals. Isn’t it about time you started a financial conversation with us? Visit our website at foundationbank.org. On a personal note, as we approach this Thanksgiving season, I want to say that we are incredibly thankful for each and every one of our clients we get to serve each day. And we are thankful for you, our listener. You’ve given us your most valuable resource – time and we want to be a good steward of it. If you’ve found this podcast to be a good use of your time, we hope you’ll subscribe to it in your favorite podcast app and share it on social media. Please remember that this does not constitute a recommendation specific to your own unique circumstances, so please consult your own advisor. MBC and Foundation Bank are a member FDIC and equal housing lender, and until our next episode, may the Lord bless you and keep you.
-President Chad P. Wilson, CFP
Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of McKenzie Banking Company / Foundation Bank on November 21, 2023. This episode does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a financial professional to discuss your specific needs. Any rates mentioned are subject to change and are accurate as of the recording date. MBC/Foundation Bank is an Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC.