Mint and Liquid: A Review of Two Mobile Financial Management Systems

As you all know well, mobile technology offers solutions for all of our day-to-day needs. A recent trend in mobile technology is on-the-go budgeting applications, including the popular Mint and (the current underdog) Liquid apps. If you’re looking for the most mobile way to track your spending but don’t know where to begin, below are reviews of these two mobile financial management systems.

Liquid
Liquid is a similar financial management app that is equally useful for monthly monitoring. Unlike your bank account, Liquid can track what money you’ll be making and what money you’ll be spending in a given month, by tracking your incoming paychecks and recurring payments. Thus Liquid provides you with a “liquid number,” which is how much money you’ll have at the end of the month.


Video by Liquid

Liquid assists your financial management by:

  1. Predicting the future
    No, Liquid is not a fortune teller. But it can seem like one, by tracking what money you’ll receive and what money you’ll have to spend in a given month. While Mint simply regurgitates your bank account, Liquid shows you the entire financial direction of your month.
  2. Telling it straight
    Liquid makes you think twice about your spending by providing you with the cold hard facts. Every purchase you make comes with a “true cost,” which is the number of hours you must work to cover the cost of that particular purchase. This element ensures that all of your hard work is realized in worthwhile purchases.
  3. Encouraging Better Spending Habits
    By keeping track of the money you’ll have at the end of the month, you’ll make smarter financial decisions every day. Liquid also offers money management tips on their MoneyTV and regularly updated blog.

Liquid’s money management system is more innovative than Mint’s and its user interface is both aesthetically-pleasing and easy to use.

But like all new technology, Liquid does have some drawbacks.

  1. It’s not free.
    But it’s only $2…
  2. It has limited providers.
    Liquid is currently only available for Apple products, including iPhone, iPad and iTouch. Hopefully, Liquid will expand to Android systems in the near future.
  3. Manual financial data input:
    Liquid requires you to manually input your financial data and transactions. Mint doesn’t. For those of you who are disciplined enough to input your data on a daily basis, or still feel a little hesitant to give your financial data to a cell-phone app that anybody can have access to, Liquid is one of the better alternatives.

Mint
The free Mint app for Android, iPhone and various other mobile and tablet devices was recently acquired by Intuit, the geniuses behind popular financial software programs Quicken, Quickbooks and Turbo Tax. While Mint is easier to use than its complicated predecessors (Quicken, Quickbooks and Turbo Tax all require both financial and technological competence), it still maintains their level of reliability on the market.

Mint tracks your finances by:

  1. Organizing your accounts
    You can store all of your credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and investments on your Mint mobile portfolio. This provides you with one centralized tracking system for all of your assets. You can also view more detailed financial information on mint.com on your computer.
  2. Tracking your spending
    Mint automatically organizes your card spending by category (gas and fuel, groceries, alcohol and bars, coffee shops, restaurant, and choose your own categories), helping you identify your problem areas and where you can cut back.
  3. Providing a detailed financial record
    Mint offers graphs and charts to best analyze your spending. You can look at charts for specific dates or specific categories and charts containing credit card comparisons. Mint stores your purchase history, and you can easily access info for past purchases by merchant or category.
  4. Keeping you updated
    Mint allows you to set up alerts for bill payment reminders, updated balances and large transactions on your account.


Video by Mint

While Mint is free, easy-to-use, intuitive and provides a simple layout for visualizing your finances, it still has room for improvement. Setbacks include:

  1. Perceptions of security
    Though the app is fully secure and offers password protection, not a lot of people are ready to entrust their entire financial records to a mobile app. It will be interesting to see how Mint tackles this challenge in their marketing efforts.
  2. Higher-end Budgets
    Since the app is directed towards those trying to better manage their finances, Mint tends to be more applicable for lower budgets. Mint’s investment-tracking capabilities are limited for higher (and thus more complicated) budgets.
  3. Category Assignment
    While Mint automatically categorizes your purchases, the software is not always accurate. For instance, it can never tell when I buy gas (I had $200 in “uncategorized fees” that seemed really shady but ended up being for the 76 by my house), and sometimes incorrectly categorizes common food purchases, like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.
  4. Pending Transactions
    Mint does not factor in pending transactions and often takes several hours to an entire day to update balances. While this is not necessarily the app’s fault (banks themselves take a little bit of time to access pending transactions), consistent access to your financial budget also requires constant updates of your bottom line. Mint needs to add additional information to its homepage calculating the pending transactions in your bank/credit account (it already displays them… why can’t it add them all together?) and an estimate of your true balance. In its current state, that giant green number on the homepage that indicates the amount of cash you have can be misleading.

Keep in mind that Liquid is still in one of it’s first iterations. It lacks the financial backing and financial partnerships that Mint does, but that doesn’t mean those won’t come in the future. In an ideal world, we’d be able to predict our financial health using Liquid’s interface while maintaining the real-time connectivity of Mint. Since we can’t, both could easily be used in tandem. In the future, it would be great if Liquid had an automatic data export feature from Mint, or if the two interfaces merged somehow (ahem… how about a buyout Turbotax?)

For more information about Liquid’s app, go to www.getliquid.com.

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