Given my propensity for extreme frugality, it probably comes as no surprise that I like to check my accounts daily. First thing in the morning. Compulsively. I think I got it from my dad, who used to endure occasional ribbing from my mom about how often he "massaged" his money. I just like to know that no errant charges have made it onto my account, and I derive a certain comfort from knowing exactly what I have (or don't have).
However, given how many different student loan and investment accounts I have, checking them all is quite the chore. And although I have put together numerous spreadsheets over the years attempting to summarize my situation, I never felt like I had a complete grasp on it. That is, until I found Mint.com.
Now I didn't exactly find it on my own. I'd read about it, I'd heard about it, and then Marissa told me that she loved it. So finally, finally I gave it a try. And as promised, it is genius.
All you do is enter your username and password for all of your online accounts. Bank accounts, mutual funds, mortgages, 401(k)s, student loans...this site can do it all. For the vast majority of financial institutions and investment vehicles, Mint can connect to their server, thereby automatically updating your balances and consolidating all of your financial data into a readable form.
I initially loved this site for its summary page. I look at it every day and know with absolute certainty what my net worth is (depressing as that number may be, I feel better knowing it than not). And the ancillary features are great...I get emails when a bill is due, when my bank balance is running low or when some sort of financial catastrophe is imminent. And I could, if I didn't pay for so many things with cash, keep track of what I'm spending my money on, and compare those amounts to a budget I had set, to last month's spending in given categories, and to the spending patterns of the average American.
But what I think I appreciate most about this site is the utter sense of calm it has brought me. It is almost as if I have a hyper-organized assistant working for me to monitor my financial matters. No accounts are forgotten, nothing slips by unnoticed, no calculations are incorrect, and everything is paid on time. All of this with a soothing color scheme in the background. No stress, no alarm, just the facts.
And while I'm on the topic of helpful financial websites, let me throw out a few more. I've already mentioned Get Rich Slowly, a helpful blog written by a newly frugal, previously indebted man. But let me add Billshrink.com to the list (I think I'm late to the party on this one as well, but hey, it shows you how to save money on, you guessed it, bills!), as well as The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back, which is a site owned by Consumer Reports that exposes various nefarious practices by big business as it relates to their customers and also dispenses useful tips. And my latest discovery (it was actually featured on The Consumerist) which I am loving is called Credit Karma. I've always been curious about what my credit score is, but have been somewhat loathe to pay for it. With Credit Karma it's free (at least your score from TransUnion is), and they give you a customized report card with tips on how to raise your score. Always good info to have, and very excited to get it gratis!