The whole “broke college student eating Ramen” thing is really more of a cliché than an actual truth. Well, unless you’re me and you just genuinely enjoy the taste of Ramen in the morning. Don’t judge me.

Regardless of your financial situation and your tastes for Ramen, college is often one of the first times we’re in control of our own finances. We’ve got bills to pay, we’ve got to figure out if we can afford an XBox, and many of us even play a part in paying for our college career. There’s a lot to manage and a lot to learn, and it’s not always the easiest process.

That’s where Mint, a fantastic Web-based way of managing your money, comes in. In essence, Mint is an application for managing all your various finances, figuring out where you spend your money, and finding out ways to spend your money smarter.

The first thing you’ll love about Mint is that it makes a few important things simple.  Once you give it your login info for various bank and PayPal accounts, student loans, and credit card accounts, it brings all your accounts into one place. You can easily check balances, check recent transactions to make sure nothing fishy is going on, and see how much pocket change you’ve got – all in a few seconds.

If you dig a little deeper, Mint can break down all your expenses for you, to see where all your money’s going (for me? Starbucks. Darn chai lattes). It automatically sorts your expenses into various categories, like “Groceries,” or “Shopping,” or even “Bar/Alcohol.” That one’s depressingly high, but I digress. Knowing where you’re spending money is a huge help, and is a big first step to actually spending it on important things.

Where Mint can really be helpful is in budgeting your spending. You can set up a budget for every month, telling Mint how much you want to spend in various categories. Mint will automatically track your spending, and will alert you, even going so far as sending you a text message, if you go over your budget.  It frequently makes me feel guilty for spending more money than I want to, but I think that’s probably a necessary first step.

The alerts Mint offers are equally useful, and have saved my ass more than a few times. You can have Mint send you an email or a text message if, say, your bank account drops below a particular amount, or if you’ve got a credit card bill due. Mine’s set to let me know if there’s a big purchase or withdrawal, so I know right away if someone has gotten hold of my account or credit card number.

Instead of having to check for all that information, and constantly make sure you’re not missing something important, Mint does it for you, and just lets you know when something comes on the radar. There’s also a mobile interface and an iPhone app, if you need to look something up when you’re on the go.

Once you get set up with Mint, realize how much money you spend that no one needs to spend, ever, you’ll probably experience what I did: something akin to “being a total failure at everything always.” Don’t worry, though, Mint’s got you covered here too: they offer tons of ways for you to save money. Everything from credit cards with lower interest rates, to ways to find coupons or rewards at places you already shop is offered to you, all to make those numbers next to your bank accounts a little larger.

Mint’s the perfect solution for students, or really anyone, looking to get in control of their money situation. You’ll see how much money you’ve got, how you’re earning and spending money, and how you can put some more money in your pocket. If you’re feeling enterprising, you can even take a look at Mint’s “Net Worth” graph, which shows you exactly how much you’re worth (you know, like Bill Gates is worth $60 Billion).

My net worth? Right about $14.85. I’m gunning for ya, Warren Buffett.

Photo: croncast