Nothing takes the place of a good financial planner, but if your budget doesn’t warrant it (or accommodate the accompanying fees) there are some online tools that can make planning and saving just a little bit easier. We’ve compiled our top ten, to help you get organized even faster.
Mint.com. This comprehensive site allows you to create an anonymous account, add your bank, credit card and investment accounts—in five minutes time and that’s all the info they require. Then, Mint pulls your balances, purchases, stock trades, etc., to create a total overview of your financial picture. Features include graphs, automatic expense categorization, and budgeting tools.
Wesabe.com. Wesabe.com combines online financial management tools with a community atmosphere, and is anonymous and secure. The site, like Mint.com, offers an overall financial picture using your banking information, etc., offers tips, and allows you to discuss financial issues with other members.
Smartypig.com. An online savings account—really—that allows you to set your goals, contribute money, and even allow friends and family (if you should be so lucky) to contribute to your account. Certified by the McAfee SECURE Security Scan daily, and absolutely free to users, Smartypig might be just the tool you need to stay on track. One caveat—once you reach your goal (though you can cash out early too with no penalty) your funds are put on a debit card OR you have the option of receiving them on a gift card for a number of partner retailers—meaning temptation to shop could blow your resolve to save for something more practical.
ManageMe. Free and suitable for personal and business use, ManageMe bills itself as being so easy you can teach your kids to manage money with it—and we think that’s a fantastic idea quite frankly. While the site doesn’t appear to offer specific advice as some others do, it’s quite straightforward to use. Set up your account (you can even set up multiple accounts to meet your needs), and you can include profiles to manage for friends and family, receive bills and deposit reminders and alerts, set budget limits, and generate budget management reports to keep everything in order.
Geezeo.com. Manage your money, participate in the Geezeo community with other like-minded members, search financial products, and get practical advice in useful financial management articles, all in one place. One stop shopping is always a plus for us, so we like the comprehensive nature of Geezeo.com. We also like that the money management features don’t stop at organizing and budgeting—there are also tools designed to help you get out of debt, plan for retirement, and buy a house.
PearBudget.com. This option isn’t completely free—there’s no charge for the first 30 days, and then it’s $3 per month after that . . . but we’d heard good things so we decided to check it out anyway. Turns out this is a fine option for those who really need something simple and straightforward—translating the old “envelopes” method of money management (remember those days) into a web-friendly tool, with fully customizable categories. It’s also backed up automatically online, and fully exportable to a CSV file, so you can do regular back-ups yourself, if that makes you feel better.
Buxfer.com. This site is useful in that it allows you to not only check balances and manage accounts at more than one bank, it also handles the math on those nagging little financial issues like splitting rent and groceries with a roommate, joint vacation expenses, managing a team or organization, or tracking personal loans you’ve made (or owe). It also interfaces with Facebook, iGoogle, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Netvibes and more, allowing for more versatile use.
Cake Financial. If you’re more interested in tracking investments with an online tool than managing a household budget, Cake Financial is worth looking into. The service—totally free—gathers all of your brokerages into one portfolio, allowing you to view the big picture using both charts and easy-on-the-eyes graphics. You also have the opportunity to view portfolios of investors with similar goals, and receive regularly generated reports with tips from other Cake Financial users.
Thrive. Get organized, get personalized advice, and get help planning ahead—really, that’s all you need to get on top of money, and past your bad budget woes. What makes Thrive special? A reader-friendly blog with practical advice and links to good financial-related stuff, and the Thrive “Health Score”, automatically generated from your financial information to tell you your “financial health” in terms of long-term stability. Then it gives you advice on how to improve.
Microsoft Money Management Templates. Would you rather keep your finances in-house (meaning offline) but need some help getting organized on your PC? Visit this site to pick from more than 60 templates—totally free—for everything from monthly household budgets, to wedding and event budgets, to monthly expense planners, and more.