Have any of you ever used Mint? It turns out that in all the time that this blog has been around, not a single person has ever covered the site, and I find that to be a shame. It has been mentioned here and there, but there has never been a full-on review. I say that changes now, because Mint is an incredibly easy to use and powerful tool to help you whip yourself into shape. Let me tell you about it and how you can fit it into your life.

First and foremost, let me express my intense hatred for two things: software and banking websites.

I hate software because it’s the 21st century. Why am I downloading things when I have a vast internet where I can do anything I want, plus Javascript, Flash, and HTML5 to emulate virtually anything I could do on my computer anyway? The only thing my hard drive should be used for is downloading media, and even then I am not a fan of that. That’s one reason to love Mint. It’s all browser-based and there’s zero reason to download a thing.

Banking websites, meanwhile, suck without exception. Okay, I do like ING for ease of use. But it isn’t exactly an analytical tool. Even though Discover Card has started to offer spending analysis, I have four credit cards. There’s no reliable way to analyze all my spending. In fact, according to Discover Card, all I did was buy a computer last year. That doesn’t encompass my unfortunate takeout addiction and my predilection for Amazon.com purchases. Thanks, but no thanks. Also, that doesn’t nearly help when I just withdraw money to stuff singles into some sweaty college kid’s g-string at the club or tip an inappropriately surly bartender.

Mint covers all that plus some. I entered all four of my credit cards, both bank accounts, my student loans from Sallie Mae and from the federal government, and even my Roth IRA. Instantly, I had account information stretching back three years into my past and was able to see that I had spent an embarrassing sum of money on delivery. I suddenly had an urge to start cooking for myself, especially because I had shamefully ordered grilled cheese to the tune of $10 a pop three times in one week. I have a firm policy of only ordering food I can’t make myself.

Yes, I discovered I’m not in a great spot in terms of credit, but that’s okay. Mint even broke down my spending into a budget, so I found that I was spending more than I was earning. I could plug holes in my spending by altering my behaviors, not just tweaking some abstract numbers. The less I called my local deli, the lower my restaurant budget went until my earnings outpaced my spendings. That’s precisely where I needed to be.

It’s a powerful tool just for spending analysis but even more helpful if you want to knock together a budget. There are shortcomings, however. I have a couple phantom charges that I cannot ascertain nor delete, and often I look pretty awesome because Mint inexplicably tracked my credit card payments but not their debits, so I came out a couple hundred dollars ahead when I’d really broken even. Until Mint finally allowed me to use custom tagging, I’d filed all cash purchases under porn (well, ‘entertainment’) because I had no idea what they were, despite some being legitimate purchases. Fortunately, Mint has fixed that issue and even allowed me to split cash into nearly infinitesimally small chunks, so yes, I could theoretically track which singles are currently pantyliners for some gogo twink and which are being collected by a grinchy barkeep. Not that I would, but I could.

Do you use Mint? Or do you have alternatives? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know!