I’ve given Intuit a lot of grief for their abandonment of Mac users in recent years. And honestly, things aren’t much better in Windows. Quicken for Windows is slow, bloated, and annoying in the way it serves ads within the software—software that you’re encouraged you to re-purchase annually.
Intuit did at least two things right in the last two years, though:
- They bought Mint.com
- They didn’t ruin Mint.com
I couldn’t make Mint work for me the first time I tried it in 2009 (actually before Intuit acquired it). Mint once took an entire month off from updating my primary credit card, and it lacked the full feature set I was looking for at the time.
Some important things have happened in my life since 2009, however.
For one thing, I finally got an iPhone when it came to Verizon this year. Mint’s iPhone app is very good. Not perfect—but very good at what it does. Being able to hold current transaction data in one hand is useful. Because most days I only have one hand available—at most.
I became a dad this year. And like most new parents, I’ve seen my household income contract and my expenses go up. Sitting down at my Mac once or twice a month doesn’t cut it. Real budgeting is a daily activity.
I’ve also made peace with the fact that Mint doesn’t offer a cash flow projection feature. I’m using iBank for that. Once or twice a month, when I pay bills, I simply download my checking data into iBank, and look at a simple cash flow forecast report.
Mint’s web interface isn't bad, but I think Mint really shines in iOS.
The Mint team just gets iOS. Just recently, they released an iPad app. And I’ll just say it: it’s one of the most useful iPad apps I’ve ever used. It packs a ton of information into a very user-friendly interface.
If there were a way to adjust budgeted amounts, I think it could replace the web interface completely. The graphs are useful, interactive, and easy to navigate. Re-categorizing transactions is also easy.
The app part is a big deal
Mobile apps and personal finance were meant to go together. Being able to sit in my living room with my wife in the evening and look at where our money is going on the iPad just works in a way that desktop-based personal finance doesn’t.
The personal computer revolutionized personal money management in the 1990s, but I’m more convinced than ever that apps are the future of personal finance. Apps make information more accessible, increasing the chances that you can act on that information.
It doesn’t really duplicate anything I’m doing in Mint because I don’t bother with categories. I just make sure the account balances, and I make sure there’ll be cash in the account for the next month or so. ↩