Caught in the Web

Money Management Made Easy

by Laura Emery, Field Editor

 

 

Now that the budget-busting holidays are behind us, many will seek to start the new year by being more fiscally responsible. Whether you are saving up for college, managing a household budget, or pursuing a New Year’s resolution to be more financially responsible, you’ll be pleased to see that money management websites have come a long way.

These sites can help you take control of your financial life — and most of them will do it for free. Many people conduct almost all of their finances online — and if you use the right sites, online finances are highly secure.

Money-management websites typically use “screen scraping” technology to see, but not touch, your financial transactions. You go to the sites of your banks, credit card issuers, and investment companies, plug in your passwords and screen names, and the money- management sites then pull in the data and categorize everything for you. It makes money management easy.

Here’s a look at some popular personal money-management websites.

Mint.com

According to PCMAG.com, “Mint.com is hands-down the best personal finance service. Mint has the most efficient setup, excellent usability, and well-honed controls for customizing Mint’s automation. Mint gives you the best control over your finances, even though it does most of the work for you.”

Mint.com has gained popularity and is now a prominent player among web-based financial-management tools, and for good reason, too. By providing Mint with your various logins, you can track all of your financial accounts in one place — whether checking, credit cards, savings, or investments. It will generate budgets and financial projections for you based on your personal data. And the best part is that Mint.com is free. With Mint you have no local software to install, and it’s a service you can access with any web browser or mobile device. This makes it convenient and affordable.

According to a review by InvestorJunkie. com, “Mint’s primary feature is all about budgeting and setting up goals, and this is where their service shines.” Other great Mint features include weekly summaries via email (find out what’s happened in the last week with your finances), alerts for pending bills, budget and goal setting, mobile app support, and automatic downloaded transactions.

Buxfer.com

Buxfer.com tracks bank, investment and credit card accounts, and can automatically download transactions and update your accounts. If you’re worried about security, it does give you the option to manually upload account information or store your passwords and logins locally on your own computer. Buxfer.com is best at account aggregation, creation of spending reports, and weekly financial reports via email and text message. You can access Buxfer.com through major phone devices like iPhone and BlackBerry. Buxfer.com also makes it easy to access future spending projections, bill reminders and upcoming transactions.

According to ConsumerSearch.com, “Buxfer.com is unique in that it can manage group expenses, so that roommates and travel buddies, for example, can keep track of who has paid what, and who might still owe a little (or more) to make things square. Users can even settle their debts with their friends through the website, using a credit card, bank account or PayPal. Another unique feature is the ability to report transactions or to query balances via SMS through Twitter.”

Buxfer.com’s basic membership is free. Under the free membership, you can track up to five accounts and budgets. Once you start adding more accounts, however, you will need to upgrade to an unlimited membership (currently $4 a month).

Yodlee Money Center https://moneycenter.yodlee.com

Consumers can use Yodlee’s MoneyCenter, free of charge, to link bank accounts (savings, checking, credit cards, investments, etc.) securely to view all balances and transactions together. It works much the same as the other websites mentioned, but with varying features. You can pay bills from your Yodlee account at no charge, as well as transfer funds. Yodlee takes great care to ensure that your financial data isn’t compromised with iron-clad security measures and a privacy policy in place. Five out of the top 10 financial institutions in the country use Yodlee’s solutions, so security isn’t an issue. 

Another benefit is that Yodlee can track credit card points, cash back balances and frequent flier miles, and has a tax planner from H&R Block. You can estimate your tax burden and/or refund way ahead of schedule, and it can even help you seek tax deductions where possible.

For more information on other money-management websites and online tools, check out MyTwoDollars’ list at www.mytwodollars.com/2008/05/19/free-websites-to-manage-your-money-online. 

 

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