“Effectively manage and budget your finances.” Isn’t that one of the top 5 New Years resolutions every year? It is around my house.

This year, I’m trying something new. I’ve put aside the spreadsheet and hand drawn bar graphs and have decided to move into the digital era using Mint.com and their products and services to help make sense of the expenditures in and out of my household.

Mint.com is a set of personal finance tools that allows you to track budget and manage your money via the web or through their iPhone application.

The main advantage that Mint has over some of its competitors right now is that fact that it does not require you to enter your transactions, and it won’t share your purchase history/patterns with anyone (that’s part of the huge debacle that Blippy is going through right now). Instead, what Mint does is automatically sync with your banking accounts to get a listing of your balances and transactions.

In order to utilize the iPhone app you’re required to establish an online account at Mint.com first Setting up your account and profile is free and takes no more than a few clicks to get your first account connected and pulling valuable down to your Mint dashboard.

The main/overview screen on the iPhone app shows high-level totals for your Accounts, Budget, Cash Flow, and Investments. The Accounts section allows you to drill down to the individual transaction level to easily see what, when and how much money you’re spending at a given time.

The Budget section starts with an app created budget for individual categories, but you can go in and adjust those to your personal needs. As you move through the month, the app will show the running total and how much +/- you are from your specified limits.

There is also the ability to have alerts (either email or SMS) should a trigger happen; I’ve got the alerts set to send me a SMS message to my iPhone when a significant expense is incurred or when deposits happen. I really like the color coded visuals within the app (red, yellow, and green depending on the alert type).

Safety and security are incredibly important to me, especially when dealing with financials, again I’ll reference the misfortunes of the Blippy users. With that,, the first time you log into the Mint.com iPhone app there’s a nag screen that suggests you establish an access password. Easy to do, and very well worth it should your iPhone ever become misplaced or stolen. If that was ever to happen, you can actually log into the web-based Mint.com environment and deactivate iPhone access from your profile page. Check out the video below as Mint’s CEO, Aaron Patzer, describes Mint.com’s approach to security.

The only real criticism that I have of the app is that my particular auto loan merchants aren’t in their database I’m not able to track the payments and present value of my cars. You have to send an email to Mint to get unlisted merchants integrated into a future release of the tool set.

This app is developed by Mint Software, is available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad. The app is free and available in the App Store here.

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Photo Credit: anemoneprojectors