It was sometime around Thanksgiving 2005. Holiday shopping was starting – that meant expenses – and it was time for a financial review. Since starting a couple of small businesses back in 1997, I had been using MS Money and then Quicken to manage my finances. Well, maybe “manage” is not quite the right word. I used Quicken to link all my bank, credit card, and IRA accounts so that I could figure out how much money I had and where it all went.
Problem was I got busy; I hadn’t kept up with Quicken in many, many months. And that meant trouble. Really all I wanted to see was how much I spent on gas and groceries, and maybe learn if I was buying too many DVDs on Amazon. But to figure all of that out, it was going to take a whole Sunday’s worth of work.
Now fortunately I already had Quicken set up. If you don’t, you’ll need to:
- Drive to Best Buy
- Buy it for $30-70
- Install it
- Click through no fewer than 29 screens to link just one credit card and one bank
(fyi: with Mint it takes ~90 seconds and 2 screens)
Even though setup takes half an hour minimum, that isn’t the real problem since it’s a one time thing. For me, it wasn’t even importing data from my online accounts that was problematic. The real issue is that it just didn’t do anything with that data.
I could see all of my transactions, true, but in order to see where my money went, I had to sit there and categorize almost every one of them. Quicken auto-categorized maybe 40% of transactions (many of which were grossly mis-categorized), and when I tried MS Money, it was even worse (it got maybe 15% of my transactions). That left several hundred transactions to categorize. I just wanted to see a pie chart of my spending! Also, if you haven’t synched Quicken in a long time, there will be gaps in your history. When that happens, Quicken asks you to manually balance and reconcile your account. It’s a computer program, why can’t it balance things itself?
Okay, so at this point I could have invested an afternoon into categorizing transactions.
But instead of putting hours of work into the system to have that glorious 5 minutes analyzing a nice chart of my spending, I took a different tact: I started a company to make personal finance effortless.
Part two of Mint’s story.