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While most people would rather submit to a root canal than see where their hard-earned cash is going in pie chart form, these seven new, free websites make money management seem like happy hour. Plus, check back on our blog later this week for tips from Pete Glyman of Geezeo.com and Craig Kessler of BudgetPulse.com on creating—and sticking to—your new strategies, and the importance of not beating yourself up if you fall off the bandwagon.
THE BIG THREE
The original player in the free, online money tool marketplace, Wesabe is an almost two year old service that allows you to upload all of your account information from banks, loans, credit cards, and investments, and immediately see your most recent history and bottom line calculated. Like all the other big players in the market—including Geezeo and Mint, below—Wesabe uses a third party aggregation service to guarantee the security of your sensitive information, and also like its competitors, negative feedback from users includes the inability to upload or add non-traditional accounts and smaller banks. Wesabe's unique features include a toolbar for Firefox and other web browsers to capture spending, an active online community of members (including a base of technophiles and Open Source evangelists), and a direct line to CEO and co-founder Marc Hedlund, who personally answers and helps troubleshoot any questions you may have.
With backing from financial powerhouse TheStreet.com, active engagement on new media darling Twitter, and a vibrant community of members offering up their innermost "money confessions", Geezeo went from being a simple cell phone service for checking account balances to quickly becoming the go-to platform for the savvy, social set. Serious yet sensible, the security features and simple money management tools on Geezeo are complemented by a community (and co-founders, Shawn Ward and Pete Glyman) with a great sense of humor and a realistic take on budgeting. Their daily "Money 101" blog offers empowering and engaging advice for taking control of your personal finances without sacrificing too much quality of life (or adding any stress), and their unique Goals feature allows you to set personal goals, track the most popular goals from other members, and join support groups around specific goals. Currently, they've partnered with glamorous money guru and You're So Money author Farnoosh Torabi to host The Great Geezeo Bailout, a sweepstakes with a grand prize of $6,000 to pay down mortgage or credit card debt. An iPhone application and a host of new features are launching later this spring.
Probably the best known of the big three websites, Mint.com also has the most members. What most people love about Mint is the instant gratification: after signing up, Mint uploads and aggregates your account history for the past 90 days and displays it in a pie chart format. Push-button, at-a-glance spending habits immediately exposed, for the good, the bad, and, as in our experience, the ugly. Like Geezeo, completely automatic account updates remove the stress of maintaining balances, debits, and credits, making traditional desktop money management software like Microsoft Money and Quicken seem archaic (to say the least). A so-so iPhone application is now available, allowing you to check your complete financial picture from anywhere, anytime, and—for better or worse—Mint's partnerships with financial institutions provide you with alerts to offers and promotions applicable to your personal profile, like better interest rates on credit cards or auto loans. While Mint has captured the largest market share of the three main, free, online money management applications, we're puzzled at their lack of social features, like a member community or a presence on Facebook or Twitter. They do, however, maintain a blog, called Mint.edu, for which they've partnered with popular econ magazine The Motley Fool.
THE FRUGAL FOUR
Although originally created as a service for friends, family, roommates, and groups to track and split shared expenses, Buxfer has also recently added personal financial tracking tools similar to the big three. Their money management tools aren't as sophisticated as those services, but their IOU-settling features and tracking tools are fantastically useful—and may just save a relationship or two.
A similar service to the big three, Rudder boasts the simplicity of daily spending alerts and big picture balances delivered straight to your inbox via email. Expect a deeper exploration of this newbie to the market from Shoestring shortly.
Originally created by CEO Raj Jeyaprakash as a spreadsheet for his family to use to track expenses and investments, BudgetPulse launched in 2007 and is a proudly manual model for online money management. Craig Kessler, marketing director, elucidated that this intentional, more traditional financial service is what brings most of BudgetPulse's customers away from the big three—they're wary of the security of uploading all their banking information and would prefer to keep their account numbers private. Expect a major update of the website later this spring.
The only paid subscription tool out of the seven—at $3 per month after a 30-day free trial—Pear Budget claims to be "the simplest budgeting and expense tracking tool on the internet." Originally created as a downloadable spreadsheet, Pear Budget is the brainchild and small business of "husband-and-wife indie developers Charlie and Sarah Park." Expect a deeper exploration of this independent service from Shoestring shortly.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for getting financially fit? Share them with the budget averse everywhere by posting a comment!
Copyright 2009 Shoestring, LLC. Photo: iStock