Mint is, arguably, the most powerful and comprehensive free personal finance app around. The only problem is it has a steep learning curve and requires you to invest a ton of time before you can even begin to see its true potential. This means only anal retentive, type-A, financially geeks without a life (sigh) get to really benefit from all the features Mint has to offer.

Save yourself some time and frustration and squeeze all the frugal living and budgeting magic Mint has to offer with these simple but powerful hacks.

1. Don’t Forget About Cash Transactions

Add transaction

One of the best features of Mint is how it automatically adds every transaction you make on your credit card and categorizes it so you can see exactly what you’re spending your money on. This allows you to see the big picture and find areas where you can save money. However, Mint has no way of knowing how you spend your cash. Even if you pay for most stuff with plastic, cash transactions can quickly add up and throw off your budget.

To avoid this, keep all your receipts and add them to Mint by hitting on the “add a transaction” button on the transactions tab. Don’t forget to include a brief description of the transaction and to categorize the expense.

To really achieve budget nirvana you can even click on the “automatically deduct this from my last ATM withdrawal” and account for your ATM withdrawals. Obviously, only click on that box if the money came from an ATM withdrawal and not from other sources of cash, such as Bingo winnings or raiding your daughter’s piggy bank.

2. Remember to Set Financial Goals

MintGoals

Tracking every penny you spend won’t do much good, if you’re not working toward a goal. Mint allows you to choose a goal and helps you find ways to achieve it faster.

On the most basic level, Mint will tell you how much you need to save every month to reach your goal. But it also will provide suggestions on steps you can take to get their faster, such as tips on how to improve your credit score, find a better interest rate, or research the going price of the car or house you’re working for.

Check out our Mint Reviews page for unbiased user reviews and feedback.

3. Tag and Categorize Your Expenses

Mint Tags

Tags are a useful but little-known Mint feature that allows you to further organize expenses. For instance, if you own two homes, several cars, or even have two families (hey, Mint won judge you), you can tag the expenses related to their source.

Instead of piling it all together into broad categories, this will allow you to see the individual running cost of each asset and spot opportunities to save money.

4. Let Mint Nag Your Spouse for You

Mint Bill Reminder

If you have a partner or share your finances with other friends or relatives, you can’t get a hold of your budget if they aren’t on board.

Mint allows you to attach several credit cards and bank accounts and will even send weekly summaries to your significant others, if you select this option from your Mint profile tab. You (and your spouse) can also receive text or email reminders for any upcoming bills, so you never have to miss a payment again.

5. Ignore Mint’s Product Recommendations

Mint App Recs

If you are a regular Mint user, you’ve probably wondered how its developers stay in business. Mint makes money from selling the data they collect from users to financial institutions (don’t worry, the data cannot be linked to individuals) and from the commission they make off users buying the financial products they recommend on their app.

Mint claims the products they recommend are tailored particularly to your financial situation. This may be true, but their recommendations are limited to the providers willing to pay Mint a commission for your business.

6. Make Sure to Split Your Transactions

Mint Split

It’s difficult to budget effectively if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you’re spending your money on. But some purchases include transactions in different categories.

You may pay for a bunch of stuff on Amazon that fall into different categories, such as coffee, books, tools, clothes and movies, with a single credit card transaction. Mint allows you to split transactions into multiple categories so you can account for the different items you purchased, rather than lumping them together into a single category.

Get the Most out of Mint

Mint App

Mint is a powerful app that can change the way you think about personal finance and budgeting by seamlessly linking to your bank accounts and credit cards. It does require some effort to get used to its many features, but its time well spent if you want to get a handle on your finances. Having said that, Mint is by no means the only, or even the best, financial app in town.

Looking for an alternative to Mint? Start your search with this list of the 10 personal finance apps recommended by experts.

Want to improve your credit score? You first need to know where it stands now. Visit SuperMoney’s credit score search engine and find the most convenient way to check and repair your credit.

Need cash in a hurry but don’t know which personal loan company you can trust? Supermoney is here to help you find the best options for all you loan needs.

Contributors: Andrew Latham

Whether you are just making the break from the 9-to-5 routine or already are a serial entrepreneur, having the right tools is important. It can play a major role in distinguishing between a successful freelancing career and a quick retreat back to a regular job.

Savvy freelancers and entrepreneurs know that even on a tight budget, making an investment in new equipment, including smartphones and tablets, is often money well spent. The apps listed below represent a some of the best pieces of software that you can install on your iOS or Android mobile device, and nearly all of them are free. Apps are compatible with both Android and iOS devices unless otherwise indicated.

General Productivity Apps for Freelancers

Google Translate
Google Translate: If you regularly deal with documents in foreign languages or travel internationally, Google Translate is a no-brainer. Google Translate deciphers documents in 70 different languages. Best of all, Google Translate is free to download and use.

I Spy Analytics: Monitor the performance of your website on the go. This snappy free app keeps track of web traffic from searches and breaks down whether visitors are new and returning multiple times. Crisp graphs make it easy to visualize the data.

Free WiFi Finder: Whether you have a stingy data plan or just don’t want to waste data units catching up with Twitter, Free Wi-Fi Finder is your friend. You can track free hotspots for your present location or plug in an address to search the database. Even downloading the app is free!

Apps for Communication

Skype

Skype: Data plan overages are an expensive aggravation. With Skype, you need not use your precious minutes or data units on voice or video calls. Whether you’re in your office or halfway around the world – as long as you and your conversation partner have Skype installed, the call is free. You can also purchase Skype credit to make calls to land lines and mobile devices without Skype for pennies per minute. And if you connect via Wi-Fi, you don’t have to use precious data units. Best of all, the app is also free.

Twitter

Twitter: If texting feels too juvenile but you really don’t have enough to say to warrant an email, Twitter has you covered. You can send direct private messages of 140 characters or less to anyone who follows you – and anyone you follow can send messages to you. Twitter is also an excellent way to keep your ear to the ground for current events. And of course, Twitter works across different mobile platforms and is absolutely free.

Collaboration and Cloud Productivity

Evernote: Evernote is a free app that is worth its weight in gold. This versatile app allows you to collect snippets from websites, transfer documents and video, organize your files and share them with your colleagues and clients. Some productivity experts can’t live without Evernote. Larger businesses can utilize the paid Evernote Business app that also provides access to Evernote Premium with 2GB of storage available for each user.

Tempo: While not specifically configured for business purposes, this calendar management app is ideal for pulling in meeting information from emails. Each day the app generates a schedule of your planned events that you can view in calendar or list format. The app is also fully integrated with Foursquare and Yelp to help the directionally-challenged find the meeting place with ease.

Dropbox

Dropbox: Got documents? Do you need to share those documents across devices and among several users? Then you must have Dropbox. The free version provides 2.5 GB of storage for both files and folders for ready sharing across devices. If you need more document storage space, you can upgrade to 100 GB per year for a flat rate of $100.

Bills, Tasks, and Organization

 

BillMinder

BillMinder: You have enough to keep track of without worrying about dealing with late fees for forgotten bills. This handy iOS app provides reminders of which bills are due so you can focus your attention on earning the money you need to pay them. That function alone more than justifies the $1.99 cost for the app.

Task Rabbit: Think of it as a high-tech personal assistant. Task Rabbit helps you to delegate those essential tasks that you simply have no time to do yourself. This invaluable iOS app is absolutely free.

CalenGoo: The name may be silly, but the app is all business. CalenGoo allows you to sync your Android device with your Google Calendar. The app itself costs $6 but once it is downloaded and installed, the synchronization service is free. The Google Tasks function is a bonus — and is also free.

Mileage Tracking Apps

Mileage Tracker: Are you a road warrior? Do you need to track your mileage for your freelance business? Mileage Tracker uses the Internal Revenue Service mileage rates to track miles and toll charges for income tax purposes. Mileage Tracker also allows you to track mileage for multiple vehicles. This app is compatible with Android powered devices and is a steal at $1.99.

Car Minder: There are more expensive and elaborate apps out there, but if you just want an app that tracks your mileage over three months, the past year or over the lifetime of your vehicle, Car Minder is for you. You can also keep track of service scheduling and repairs. Car Minder is compatible with iOS devices and is priced at a reasonable $2.99.

Expense Tracking and Record Keeping

expensify

Expensify: As an entrepreneur, receipts are essential for staying on the right side of the IRS. Expensify allows you to capture an image of your receipt with your Smartphone and save it to your phone’s memory or to the cloud to share across devices. This free app is also easy to use. Robust and full-featured, Expensify also has a web component and is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

OneReceipt: Another free app, OneReceipt is configured for iOS devices. OneReceipt can draw receipt information from Gmail or Yahoo email messages. You can also use your camera to snap an image of the receipt and OneReceipt will take it from there.

Receipts Pro: The Receipts Pro app allows you to track multiple accounts on iOS devices. You can also divide each account into categories for more precise record keeping. Optional password protection provides enhanced security. With its robust functionality, Receipts Pro provides good value for its asking price of $4.99.

Photos: AndroideGratis, Wikimedia, MacRumors, Shawn Campbell

With tax season right around the corner, the tax man will soon be knocking at your door. Though filing your taxes and keeping track of them is probably not your favorite task, new apps on the market are making the often dreaded chore a little easier. Many of these handy mobile apps for taxes are also free.

1. IRS: IRS2Go

IRS2GO app

Developed by the IRS, this free app enables you to connect with the IRS whenever and wherever you are. You can check on the status of your refund (the fun part!) and use the app to sign up to receive IRS Twitter feeds and helpful, potentially money-saving tax tips.

2. TaxACT: Mobile Apps

TaxAct mobile apps

TaxACT has apps that when used together make the process of filing your tax returns a breeze.

TaxACT Express allows you to easily and at no cost file your federal taxes from your smartphone. You can complete the entire return on your phone or start the return on TaxACT.com and finish on the go.

TaxACT Central is a companion to Express. This app contains a tax return calendar and checklist that allows you to get organized and ready to file your returns. It also contains a help center and allows you to check the status of your e-filed returns and your federal refund.

DocVault is another companion app that you can use throughout the year to make filing a breeze. The app allows you to organize and save your necessary tax information and documents throughout the year. You can securely save photos of tax forms, banking records, receipts, invoices and charitable donation statements.

3 TaxSlayer: Free Tax Refund Calculator

TaxSlayer App

Worried about owing a lot of money or curious how big of a refund you’ll be getting? TaxSlayer is a free app that allows you to use your paycheck or W-2 to estimate your 2013 tax refund. That way you’ll know if you need to celebrate or start saving.

4 Bloomberg BNA: Quick Tax Reference

Bloomberg BNA

This app gives you access to tax rates and schedules from now back to 2011. Discover key information such as standard mileage rates, individual tax rate schedules, income tax rates for estates, capital gains and dividends taxed as net capital gain, retirement plan limits, and more. The app allows you to quickly change the year of reference.

5. H&R Block: 1040EZ Tax App*

HR BLock Tax App

This app helps you complete U.S. federal and state returns using step-by-step instructions. The app is free to download and allows you to prepare your tax returns and e-file for free. Features include the ability to take a picture of your W-2 with your phone and import it into your return.

6. TurboTax: Tax Caster

TurboTax Tax Caster

This app allows you to get a quick estimate of your 2013 tax refund. You simply enter some basic information, and you see your refund add up. The program uses the same tax calculator used in TurboTax. Based on your tax situation, the app will recommend the right TurboTax product for your needs.

7. TurboTax: MyTaxRefund

MyTaxRefund

As its name suggests, this app allows you to quickly check on the status of your e-filed federal and state tax returns. It also gives you an immediate estimate of the date you can expect your federal tax refund. It’s not necessary to be a TurboTax customer to use the app.

8. CPAdirect: ASK A CPA

Ask A CPA

Get answers to your pressing tax questions with this free app, which was created by a CPA. Up-to-date answers found on the app include latest tax changes, itemized deductions rules, tax rates and how to file.

9. TurboTax: SnapTax

SnapTax

With this easy-to-use app, you simply snap a photo of your W-2, answer a few simple questions and e-file from your phone. Filing your federal return is free; there’s a charge for your state return. If you’re filing a 1040EZ form, you can get your return done in as little as 10 minutes.

10 Intersog: Dictionary of Tax Terms*

Dictionary Of Tax Terms

If you want to learn more about taxes in general and what all the lingo means, this app will help you get up to speed. It contains more than 600 tax terms and is fully browseable and searchable.

These tax apps unfortunately won’t make filing your taxes unnecessary, but they will help ensure that the process runs more smoothly.

*All apps are available on iTunes, though this app may not be available for Android users.

Julie Bawden-Davis is a staff writer for SuperMoney. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Photos: FlickrAbout.com, IRS.gov, Apple, Bloomberg BNA, Geeksugar, Intuit Labs, Ask A CPA