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Day 11) Online Money Management Tools (part 1)

Welcome to Day 11 of Where’s My Money Going? Month! This February 2009, I’m challenging readers (and myself) to track spending manually for 28 days. Don’t worry if you’re late to the party, you’re still welcome to join. Consider tracking your spending into March.

Even though I’m tracking my money manually this month, I’ll be reviewing some programs which allow you to automatically track your accounts online. Keeping all your account information in one place can speed up manual tracking or help you do less of it, simply reconciling your numbers periodically.

Today, tomorrow, and Friday I’ll be reviewing, Quicken Online, Geezeo, Yodlee, Wesabe, Buxfer, and Expensr. All seven are free, trusted places to monitor your money online. I have tried out all 7 and will be sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons of using each.

(As a note, I don’t recommend that someone sign up with all of them. They do have trusted security systems and won’t have some of your most important account information but signing up with all of them is overkill. Plus, it’s a pain. The things we PF bloggers do for our craft! 😉 )

Today’s tools are and Geezeo. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about Quicken Online and Yodlee. Then on Friday I’ll be writing about Wesabe, Buxfer, and Expensr and wrapping up.

Trying Out Geezeo

Geezeo is perhaps the most active social networking site of the online money-tracking world. The emphasis here is on being part of a community that’s trying to do better with their finances, specifically knowing your money, budgeting, and setting goals (all of which are easy to do on there). You’re asked to choose a screenname so you can interact with other users with a certain degree of anonymity.

On Geezeo, you can select financial goals from a list (or create your own), comment on other people’s goals, even join groups and have discussions. If you’re ashamed of something, they have a public confessional (no, you can’t hide your screenname if you confess.) Of course, they keep your actual financial information private. You can’t just look at another person’s budget or income.

Of all the sites I reviewed, Geezeo’s blog is the most integrated into the site, showing up in one of the tabs as “Money 101.” All in all, it seems like an active community.

The biggest frustration I experienced with Geezeo was that it’s unable to get information from ING Direct. They have great instructions on importing manually. Since I’m not looking for the social aspect outside my blog, I think importing transactions manually is just too much work. On the other hand, if I wasn’t going the blogging route and wanted to be part of a community that supported me in my goals, etc, I think it might be worthwhile.

Geezeo can import information directly from most banks, including Canada’s ING Direct branch. I got Wachovia to show up quite easily.

The only other two issues I ran into were a) like any other tool I’ve used, Geezeo makes very bad calls about what category transactions should go under and b) the ads on Geezeo were more prominent than on any of the others (I address advertising on each in its section).

All in all, it seems like a good place but not for me.

Trying Out

Mint is the first online tracking service that I signed up with. It hasn’t been around as long as Yodlee (that’s tomorrow) and maybe Geezeo (I’m not sure of the dates), but it made a big splash when it hit.

Mint is quite user-friendly and has a great Web 2.0 look. It’s much “cleaner” to look at than Geezeo, probably because it doesn’t have as many options. Mint is not community-oriented, you feel alone with your money. I like that feeling, since I feel like my financial life is public enough on here.

Mint’s strongest feature is that it always had the most up-to-date transactions. Whether because they couldn’t handle ING Direct or because they were slower, the other programs were much slower in picking up my transactions. I checked this for a couple of days and Mint kept getting them hours or even a day before the others. Huge point for Mint.

What I like best about Mint (besides its being up-to-date) is the transaction review section. It’s clean and it’s easy to edit (to make sure transactions go in the right category or to add a store name it’s wrong or unclear). For me, the biggest draw of these sites is being able to see all my accounts in one place. I also like that I don’t have to see my retirement account, since I didn’t link it (but I do have to see it at ING Direct). Poor thing’s taken a beating and I’d rather not watch. Anyway, Mint does a great job of presenting my most recent spending.

It’s also quite easy to create a budget, if you’d like. Like the rest, Mint isn’t great at picking out every type of transaction, so you have to make sure transactions are properly categorized if you want to use this picture.

Other perks: For iPhone users, Mint has an iPhone app. Since I don’t have an iPhone I have no idea how good it is, but it’s an awesome concept being able to manage your money from an app as well as a browser. There are also forums which are mostly geared toward helping you get Mint to work for you.

Mint isn’t perfect, of course. For example, they didn’t do a great job of making their blog accessible when you’re managing your money. You wouldn’t even know they had a blog.

And while it doesn’t have ad blocks, Mint does advertise. It’s funded by “offers” to help you save money. So if you’re getting 2.4% interest on your bank account, they might show you an offer for a bank with higher interest. I’m not opposed to advertising…great free software means the money has to come from somewhere. But sometimes it’s annoying nonetheless.

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow I’ll be writing about Quicken Online and Yodlee.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Evaluating Quicken Online and Yodlee
February 12, 2009 at 7:03 am
Evaluating Wesabe, Buxfer, and Expensr
February 13, 2009 at 7:03 am
Budgeting versus Expense Tracking « Where’s Our Money?
February 15, 2009 at 9:32 pm
Good-Bye, Microsoft Money! 16 Powerful Personal Finance Programs | Lock in a good
July 1, 2009 at 8:46 am

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen February 11, 2009 at 9:00 am

I am a Mint fanatic. LOVE it. It really revolutionized the way I manage money and budget.

I love that my transaction records and budget are linked in the same place. It makes more sense to me than keeping them separate.

I have the iPhone app. The app is kind of eh. Really all it allows you to do is view your balances and transactions. While it’s helpful to be able to see all of that in one place without logging into my bank account, I’ve found that Mint does have a slight delay behind my bank, so the balances and transactions can be off by as much as a day. The app would be a lot more useful to me if I could view and monitor my budget.

Jo February 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

I don’t care for any of the budget websites that call for downloading account information. The accounts I have aren’t carried by these websites. The exception is Mvelopes, but that isn’t free. However, if I had to choose, I’d go with Wesabe. I like the community experience a lot.

mrsmicah February 11, 2009 at 9:04 pm

@Karen, of them all, I think I like Mint the best. Or perhaps Yodlee…but I started using that one more recently. I really enjoy the interface on Mint.

@Jo, I have a hard time with some because they’re not compatible with ING Direct where I do most of my banking. But I’m starting to like this manual thing. I know one can do that on some of these sites (which would provide the utility of having the info accessible from anywhere). Not committing to one yet though.

Jessica February 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

I currently use Quicken software, but I’ve been considering switching to something else since Quicken has planned obsolescence, forcing me to buy a new version in a couple months so I can download my statements.

Plus, Quicken is a bit clunky-it over complicates what I want to do and has more features than I need or want.

I’ve been trying Mint, but there are two immediate downsides to it, at least for me.

First, there’s no register for me to manually track transactions. I don’t keep a paper register, but rather enter everything into Quicken. I don’t do the download feature from my bank because debits often take several days to show up and it throws me off. I could keep using Quicken for this feature, but I’m hoping to find an all-in-one program to keep things simply. Which might mean sticking with Quicken.

Second, my mortgage and car loan are through a small bank that doesn’t offer web account access for these loans. I think it would be nice to enter information manually for these loans.

The budget feature and interface are nice, however I do think the categories need work. It’s a minor issue, but I’m irked that they lump a bunch of categories under “shopping”. Maybe it’s me, but I feel like everything under that heading is frivolous. Toilet paper is an essential!

Good timing with the reviews, I’m hoping to find a Quicken alternative soon and this helps a lot.

Jason @ MyMoneyMinute February 12, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I’ve tried Wesabe & Mint. I like all that Mint has to offer so far. Wesabe seems pretty good, but logistically I had trouble uploading accounts, so I’ve stayed with Mint for the time being.

I also love the budgeting feature. My only issue is, that sometimes, bills that I have that are due near the beginning of a month, sometimes get paid early in the previous month. So Mint counts that towards my previous month’s budget, and throws off the numbers for both months.

If I can figure out a way to assign/tag certain entries that appear in one month but budget-wise belong to another month, it will be a one-stop shop for me!

Maybe a creative tagging method will work for me? Hmm…

ColombianCoffee February 13, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I absolutely love Mint. I have a similar problem as Jason because WaMu generally does not update their system until a day or two after the actual transaction date so sometimes things are out of the correct month and it would be nice to have the ability to correct that. My favorite new feature is the ability to make up your own categories, so for example, I have an alcohol/bars budget and a coffee budget as opposed to others who might need a parasailing budget. It makes it easier to track things and see where you are off and where you’re on track and by exactly how much you need to adjust the next month to fall within your budget

Jason @ MyMoneyMinute February 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

@Colombian Coffee — yeah, that’s exactly my problem (wasn’t sure if I adequately communicated it in my prior comment). If I could move around some transactions, it would be perfect.

maybe I could creatively tag all entries I want for my February budget with “feb” tag?

mrsmicah February 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm


I have Quicken 2008 and haven’t had to buy a new copy. It does upgrade every few months, it seems, so that’s definitely a hassle. But I haven’t had to pay a think for those upgrades. I don’t have Quicken 2009, but I can still download statements. Just wanted to add that so people don’t get confused and think they’ll have to pay for Quicken after they’ve bought it.

It’s still a clunky interface, a bit of a hassle when upgrading. I’m appreciating YNAB’s simplicity.

tom dejoria September 21, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I, personally, think that all these money management features should be delivered by your own bank. Not some 3rd party, VC funded startup that may or may not be around in a few years.
Mint was just acquired by Intuit. Mint directly competed (for free) against Intuit’s Online Quicken. So what do you think will happen now? One of the products will have to change.

Another concern is security. Yodlee is the back end aggregator for Mint. I beleive they also do Geezeo. They get your data by “screen scraping”. Essentially they take your credentials and log into your sites for/as you. I dont like some independent/unregulated company doing this.

Dont get me wrong, they have GREAT software. The features are fantastic. I just dont like them having that kind of access and am keeping my fingers crossed that out the banks will soon start offering these services.

Ben Dunlap November 12, 2009 at 7:45 pm

@tom dejora, when I looked into it a year ago or so, I found that Bank of America, for one, does offer this kind of service on their website… and it’s powered by, you guessed it, Yodlee.

PK August 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

I’ve heard good things about Mint. A bit more manual is 1DayLater which is just a simple way of tracking expenses but gives good visual outputs

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