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Replacement for Mint - Update!

I set out this month to complete 3 money moves. Now that we're two thirds of the way through the month, I definitely can see what I did well, and where I fell off. What I'm finding most fun is researching for a new budget / financial tracker / money management tool. More daunting? Networking online and writing up posts. I've only managed to comment on 5 different YT channels and websites. I'm also very far behind on my catch-up of 8 posts this month since this is only my 3rd post. There's time yet, though! On to the main event, here's my update on finding a Mint replacement.

Assess new budget/financial trackers (Bye bye, Mint?).
     What I got out of my research? Mainly 2 points:
     1. I will never pay for a budget app or financial tracker app and neither should any money savvy individual
     There has been and forever will always be too many budget and personal finance apps on the market. Some apps are feature heavy (link to bank accounts, auto-updated free credit score, credit card recommendations) like Mint while others are minimalist to a fault. Since I'm trying to get a replacement for Mint, my criteria centered on whether I can link to all my bank accounts and investment accounts and hopefully be able to add cash transactions since it appears that most apps only let you do manual entries or linkage, not both.
     I spent hours on the Google Play Store and reading reviews after reviews and especially reviews proclaiming better alternatives to Mint (See Link-1, Link-2, and Link-3). All the links I put here have been updated recently this month or were published in 2019 so the news is fresh. 
     While the reviews may come from reputable websites and companies, I rolled my eyes at recommendations for apps that required payments or subscriptions.
     Tracking via Mint is free. Tracking by pen & paper is free. Also, consider that your credit card also has a website/app that tracks your spending; more and more banks are adding budget trackers onto their websites along with credit monitoring so that's all free as well. So the average person, and especially a savvy money person does not for any good reason need to pay a one-time fee or the blasphemous on-going monthly fee to monitor their portfolio or budget. My only exception is if you need to do a family/shared budget and even then, I would only make a one-time payment, not an on-going monthly subscription fee.

     2. Personal Capital is the current front runner as my Mint app replacement! I've also tried NerdWallet app and the Status app. I refuse to try any app that costs money or only offers a free trial.
     So far, I had a great experience using Personal Capital (use my link to get a $20 Amazon gift card when you sign up and link a qualified investment account. Referral terms here). Linking accounts was really easy except for one legacy investment account that has 3 additional security questions/measures; it worked out in the end after I figured out what I was doing wrong (duh wrong answers to my security questions). Accounts appear to update in real-time and I'm able to easily re-categorize my transactions. The app is simple and easy to use and reminds me of Mint before its botched face lift.
    Personal Capital boots up way faster than Mint, or at least feels like it does because the accounts update one at a time instead of Mint's total balance updating after what feels like 10 minutes. I've only logged into the Personal Capital web portal a handful of times, but already like how it looks like a modern dashboard instead of Mint's color splash.
     Major downsides: no cash transactions and a lacking budget feature. I can live without inputting cash transactions, since I don't carry that much cash anyway. However, it's disappointing to see that there isn't a way to set a budget, other than inputting 1 target/static number for the month that will stay there until you change it. While there is a Budget section on the app and website, it really only leads to the cash flow and transactions page. I might be able to live with this too, because there is enough reporting elsewhere to see my spending by category per month.
     Many reviews did say that sooner or later, an investment adviser will reach out to bug you for paid services. I haven't faced this inconvenience yet. I screen calls and don't answer unfamiliar numbers, so not sure if anyone from Personal Capital has tried to call. No texts yet either. I will see if I get any email solicitations, at which point I will politely decline advisory services.

     The other contenders: 
     The NerdWallet app hasn't been developed enough for my needs. It has a busy interface, 7 terribly oversimplified spending categories (Food, Travel, Bills, Fees, Transfers, Income, Other), and a very delayed bank feed. It doesn't update the same day! The redeeming quality of the NerdWallet App is that it has a nifty Cash Back bonus section; once your credit cards are linked in this section, you just need to buy food at a participating restaurant and NerdWallet will give you cashback. There is a map feature that lets you see which places are participating so you can go there for lunch or keep in mind for your next meal out.
     On the other hand, the Status app is cool because you do get to compare your budget and spending to the proverbial Joneses and Smiths in the world (or, just the domestic US). Status supposedly uses the data of all its users to get you peer standing (Criteria: Age range, Income range, Location, Location Type, Credit Score Range, Housing Type) in terms of your monthly spending habits. You can also see a National Average and create your own Custom Groups. For example my Peer Group is set to 18-29 y.o.s, my salary range, "NY/NJ/PA Area," Urban, 720-779, Own Home. The system won't allow you to create a Custom Group if there are less than 5K people that meet all the custom criteria (for example, when I edited my Peer Group to New York, NY as the Location and kept all else the same, the app won't let me save the Custom Group.) After the initial voyeurism high is over, the app does little in terms of budgeting or illuminating your spending trends. I don't care much about comparing myself to others-- I'd rather make sure that I'm making progress on my own financial goals!

Who knows what might change from now til the end of the month, so I will keep testing the Personal Capital in parallel to Mint. Maybe I'll keep both and keep my NerdWallet login for the cash back feature. Do you think I'm too harsh on paid money apps? Have you tried the Status App? Let me know in comments below!


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