The newest ways to manage your money don’t require expensive software. They are web-based—you can log into them anywhere—even on your phone. And, best of all, there are many free options to help keep your budget in check.
moneyStrands.com is easy to use. You enter your account information and moneyStrands breaks every expense and deposit in each of your accounts into different categories (home, insurance, auto, shopping, groceries, etc). Clicking on the details tab allows you to see your account broken up in a color-coded pie chart. Each “pie piece” is a different category and you can easily change the time period you are looking at (anywhere from the current month to “ever”). If you feel that you are spending too much in one category you can set up budgets and have moneyStrands.com track your progress. You can also schedule alerts—no more overdraft surprises!
But what makes moneyStrands.com really stand out is the ability to anonymously compare your investing and spending habits to other people within your demographic, or with similar traits. Answer a few easy questions and the program compares your income and spending habits with relevant sub-groups (e.g. students) within the community to see how your expenses match your peers. moneyStrands.com uses social recommendation technology to help you find the best ways to invest and save money and to recommend things for you to buy. You can view your comparisons by category in either a bar graph or bubble chart.
moneyStrands.com offers a variety of widgets that you can activate, including: recommend financial products, tips, favorites and what to buy. Another neat widget is the “financial condition” widget. It’s an easy-to-read graphical representation of your financial situation. If you hover over the graphic it offers an explanation: “Your financial condition is excellent when your average monthly expenses amount to less than 30% of your monthly income.”
Web-based means immediate access to all of your accounts: bank, credit cards, and investing accounts. You can log in at home, at work, or anywhere you have Internet access. moneyStrands promises that their site is just as secure at any other banking or investment site. Their website promises that security is a top priority. moneyStrands.com is free. They also offer a free mobile app for the iPhone.
Mint.com organizes all of your credit cards, bank accounts, loans, brokerages, investment accounts, and more. It provides tools for budgeting and investing, and manages all of your different financial accounts. It even comes up with personalized money saving ideas. In addition, Mint also recommends better credit cards or a bank that pays higher interest rates. It matches you with offers for credit cards with lower rates or negotiates a lower rate with your current company. Mint also gives you ideas for saving money on things you are already buying, without shoving a bunch of obnoxious ads down your throat. Just make sure you check for bank errors carefully (something we all should be doing anyway). Mint is free and offers an iPhone application.
Like many other online banking applications, Wesabe organizes your bank account and credit cards so you can see them all in one place. It’s similar to moneyStrands in that you categorize your transactions and the program summarizes your earning and spending. Wesabe analyzes and shares your data with others in the community. Everything is anonymous. It differs from moneyStrands in that it can show the cost of an average transaction at a particular store. Wesabe Mobile is also available for your cell phone. Wesabe is free.
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