Improving Money Behavior with Online Budget Tools

July 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Budgeting

We have all heard (or experienced ourselves) that “there is too much month left at the end of the money” and “I just don’t know where all my money goes!”  These statements are used to explain why debt reduction plans are not implemented or cannot be completed.  Anyone with a computer and internet connection can access free online budget tools which make it so easy to remove the mystery and ignorance about “where the money goes.”  I have tried some of these myself and they work. 

One such free tool is Mint (www.mint.com). Mint allows a user to link checking, savings and credit card accounts to a Mint account so that all transactions from those accounts are automatically downloaded into the user’s Mint account.  Mint then assigns (or assists the user in assigning) spending categories to those transactions.   The user can easily set up a personal budget inside Mint so that Mint can graphically display spending and spending trends compared to the budget.  What is really helpful to those with a history of bad spending habits is that Mint can provide budget alerts (including by email) when spending in a category is approaching or exceeding the budgeted amount.

Buxfer (www.buxfer.com) offers functionality similar to Mint and also provides channels to allow mobile users to input expenses, check balances, and receive alerts using SMS, email, or Twitter.

Yet another free online budget tool is Billster (www.billster.com). I have not used this tool but it claims the following features:  record and report on personal and group expenses; save reoccurring expenses, even those with direct debits or standing orders setup; send reminders, either automatically or when triggered by the user to remind people who owe you money or to remind yourself about a payment; automatically email a summary of the expenses you’ve put through billster.  The tracking of group expenses is a unique feature that would be quite useful to college students sharing an apartment, a group known for having bad money habits.

One of the newer free money tracking sites is Geezeo (www.geezeo.com). Geezeo is part of thestreet.com which gives it a lot of credibility. In addition to a comprehensive expense and budget trackingfeature set, a significant part of Geezeo is community building, providing a place where users with similar financial goals and interests can interact.

An “almost” free online tool is Quicken Online (www.quicken.intuit.com), which is free to try for two months then $2.99 monthly thereafter.  Quicken Online has a look and feel similar to regular Quicken albeit with simplified functionality.  It also aggregates transactions and data from multiple external accounts.  This tool would be excellent for young adults and others who can start simple then later migrate to a full installed version of Quicken as the complexity of their financial picture increases.

Finally, there are a wide variety of budget templates– usually Excel spreadsheets – that can be downloaded and easily customized to track income and expenses in pre-defined categories.  One of my sons uses one that is quite comprehensive and completely suitable for someone who runs most of his or her money through one or two accounts.  A convenient source for budget templates is Microsoft Office Online (office.microsoft.com).  Mac users can grab a budget template from Mactopia (www.microsft.com/mac/templates.mspx).

For the benefit of those who need help from online budget tools to improve their money behavior, leave us your suggestions as well. In the meantime, NO MORE EXCUSES about “not knowing where the money goes.”


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One Response to “Improving Money Behavior with Online Budget Tools”
  1. Update: As of October 2008, Quicken Online is now FREE!

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