In an article titled Home Economics in today’s Sunday New York Times Magazine Virginia Heffernan examines how Mint.com has encouraged her to confront her spending patterns, save more, and reduce bank fees.
Joy and chagrin — I’d say those are the emotions activated by Mint. Not bad, right? At least they supplant the anxiety, compulsion and misery that are my usual responses to personal finance. On the service’s testimonials page, users express a kind of soft-rock ardor. “Mint has truly helped my wife and I see light at the end of the financial tunnel,” writes one.
Such emotional reactions suggest that the site is, at its core, something other than a mere bookkeeping tool. After only a few weeks, I was regularly on Mint and essentially playing with it, as with a crossword puzzle: analyzing my spending habits, lowering my monthly caps on this or that category and calling my bank to contest Mint-flagged charges. This new diversion was — I noticed — distracting me from other sites, namely eBay and Etsy. That was rich. Where eBay had once turned shopping into a game, Mint had now turned saving into one.
How can bank’s compete with a personal financial management solution that users – even savvy web commentators like Heffernan – find more attractive than browsing eBay and Etsy?