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 Mint.com, 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! )
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.com
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.