While Quicken and MS Money have been around for a while, a new breed of personal finance websites are giving them a run for their—well, money. Combining money management tools with social networking, the new Web 2.0 personal finance sites are barely five years old, yet have become an instant favorite of consumers looking to take greater control over their credit cards and general finances.
There are a lot of choices to choose among. Here is an overview of some of the leading personal finance aggregators listed by popularity (i.e., by how much traffic each attracts).
Named the best online personal finance tool by Money Magazine, Mint.com is one of the largest personal finance sites, with more then one million users. Mint.com offers online money management and budgeting software tools as well as many other great features. The website aggregates users’ credit card charges and other expenditures, analyzes spending patterns, and suggests alternative providers or savings opportunities for regular expenditures in a separate window.
Mint.com has won accolades for being extremely user-friendly and for its ability to download financial data from a very wide range of credit card and bank accounts without a hitch. According to the website, Mint.com has helped users identify more than $100 million in potential savings, and it is growing rapidly, attracting more than 3,000 new users each day.
The Boston Globe calls Geezeo “the Weight Watchers of money” management. Like Mint.com, Geezeo is a free personal finance web-based application created to make cutting-edge financial tools available to everyone—without a high price tag.
Geezeo takes personal finance one big step further, however, by adding a social networking dimension to money management. The idea is that people can advantageously learn from each other by sharing spending and savings tips based on their own experiences. Like Mint.com, Geezeo lets users add credit cards, checking and savings accounts; users can also track student loans, mortgages, car loans and investment data.
Geezeo has many cool functions, which actually make money management fun. If you set a goal such as paying $1,000 of your credit card debt over the next three months, for example, Geezeo will take you to a group page with a discussion board and a percentage meter that keeps track of your success.
Wesabe is a financial social networking site, particularly recognized for its extensive user forums, which are rated among the best on the Web. The site lets users share their financial information anonymously with other users, enabling fellow users to comment and give advice on how best to save money based on where you shop and how you usually spend your money. The message boards contain lots of detailed and useful information from other users sharing their experiences with topics of interest like weekly expenditures on food, buying a first home, debt management, credit cards, and so on.
The site features some great Web 2.0 features, such as a “Cutback Tool,” which suggests ways to save money by looking through your regular expenses for things you might be able to cut back on. A particularly cool feature is the ability to Twitter cash purchases to your account immediately instead of entering them when you come home.
Mint.com, Geezeo.com, and Wesabe.com are the largest personal finance/social networking websites, receiving the lion’s share of traffic. Runners-up worth checking out include Buxfer.com (sometimes referred to as “Quicken for 20-somethings”), GreenSherpa.com, and Moneystrands.com.
It takes time to set up your account and spending categories, so before deciding on which website to use, invest a little time getting to know each one. Look for the one that has the features most suited to your needs and is the easiest to use. Some sites have a limited list of bank accounts and credit card companies from which they can download information and this can be a serious drawback. Still, all sites are constantly being updated, and this is one area where improvements are likely in the future.