Just a little blog about me and mine.

My Own Backyard (a post about money, not gardening) January 7, 2009

Filed under: finances — Katie @ 11:47 am

A while back I wrote about signing up for the site Mint as a way to better keep track of our multiple checking, savings, and credit card accounts and the transfers we make from one to another. Since that post I even added a new account–an ING direct savings account to hold PL’s student loan money.  We get a lump sum for living expenses each semester after the extremely costly tuition and fees are paid, and we use what’s left a bit at a time each month to pay what my measly paycheck won’t cover.  It was sitting in the checking account for a while, but having such a high balance tempted us into overspending and not paying attention, so I moved it to our linked savings account so I could just move our certain budgeted amount into checking each month. 

I realized that a chunk of money like that, even if it would be more or less depleted by the end of the semester, would earn a little bit of interest–but not at the pitiful .02% that most savings accounts pay.  I did some research and found that many online banks pay 2-4% interest, and I picked ING Direct (not the absolute highest interest rate out there but I liked them the best).  We’re $23.66 richer because of interest earned just since opening the account in mid-October.  I’ve been very happy with ING Direct so far–it’s easy to transfer money back and forth since when you set it up you have to link it to a checking account. 

If you have money sitting earning .02% in a savings account, go right now and open an online one–they pay from 2-4% usually and are easy to set up. Actually, don’t do it right now–tell me first if you want to do it and I can officially refer you and get $10 for me, $25 for you.  I didn’t close our other savings account since we get the keep the change cents added to it when we use the debit card, so it’s worth keeping around. 

Here’s my final verdict on Mint. After much time spent tracking down account numbers, log-in information, and guessing answers to long-ago selected security questions, I decided that Mint isn’t all that useful for me and my needs.  Setting it all up was a royal pain for some accounts, and I consistently had trouble syncing it up to ING Direct for some reason.  What I did like about it was being able to set budget categories for expenses and have the system classify the expenses for you–that part worked quite well usually.  It obviously doesn’t know that Kroger is usually groceries but sometimes prescriptions so it’s not totally hands-off.   The main reason it simply isn’t useful for me is that you can’t actually pay any of your bills or transfer money back and forth inside the program.  It is nice to see everything all in one place, but I was still logging into multiple sites to transfer money and pay bills. 

What I should have done first when trying to get an organized way for seeing how our money is spread in so many accounts (nothing offshore or illegal though, I think), is check to see what undiscovered services my own banking site actually had.  As is often the case, something I already had sitting around being underutilized has features I didn’t know about–for free no less.  It should always be a rule of mine to check out undiscovered features that are a part of products and services I already have.  Our fancy oven, for example, can do all kinds of clever things other than turn on and off and I never knew it until I read the manual.  

Back to money–our online banking site at Bank of America has a feature called My Portfolio (a name that’s a registered trademark somehow) that does the same thing as Mint–links multiple external accounts into one place, shows you a summary of all transactions in all accounts, and lets you categorize expenses as you wish and set budgets for them.  Since my main complaint with Mint was that it was separate from where you actually transfer money and pay bills, having it in my online banking site–where I actually do those things–is great.   

In just a few minutes I added our Kroger credit card to it easily.  The ING Direct site is still being a hater and I don’t know why.  To sync up with most accounts I needed to enter my account number and/or username and password and maybe answer a security question or two.  For ING though, it gives a list of 10 security questions to answer, a list of 20 possible questions in a drop down menu and then you have to both pick the right questions and give the right answer.  That hasn’t worked yet, even though I even went back to ING and set up all new questions so I could remember which 10 to pick and know the right answers.  My main goal in using a service like that is to better keep up with day-to-day spending, so I’d really like to have the ING Direct account in there sine that’s money we use for regular expenses.  So I’m going to try again later, maybe make a complaining phone call to them if I have time, and decide what other accounts to put in there.  Wish me luck.  It really shouldn’t be so complicated to keep track of the comings and goings (mostly goings) of my money.


One Response to “My Own Backyard (a post about money, not gardening)”

  1. Julia Says:

    Hey email me that ING link. We technically both have Emigrant accounts, but Robert can’t remember how to log in to his. So I figure I’ll set him up an ING one in the mean time and make some $$.

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