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May 11, 2012

Online Financial Tools for Simplified Budgeting

The tools of budgeting all come down to a basic process of keeping track of income and expenses in one location. This makes it possible to target areas of over-spending and arrange a projected budget that is both realistic and oriented towards saving. Just as the old days of using a hand-held calculator and accounting pad gave way to computerized spreadsheets and stand-alone programs, newer methods have been supplanted in recent years by internet-based programs.

Tweaking categories and establishing limits is still an individualized matter, but it is no longer necessary to transfer the numbers from each account into a centralized system. Online money management tools are capable of accessing accounts for which they are given your login information, but this feature is not a given due partly to security reasons.

Many programs are available, and choosing the best depends upon which you find most compatible with your financial needs. Since all these programs are free, advertising should not be a surprise. Some of the most popular tools for financial planning are:


Mint is the most versatile and user-friendly of the options available. Login information is easily entered for a fast and comprehensive accounting of everything from monthly spending patterns to total net worth. One of the more valuable features is its ability to gather as much information as is stored in the account. Investment accounts entered into the system will be tracked on a weekly basis.

The downside for some users will be the automated budgeting. Preset totals are attached to every category, and it will take some time to configure these for your individual needs. Until you do, expect to face reminders and overspending warnings regularly. Initial setup can take around an hour, and it will take more time to get the program matched up with your financial life.


This program offers some of the same features as Mint, such as the ability to pull data from multiple accounts and automatically compile net worth, liquid assets and debt. If you have been using Quicken, this is a good choice for now. Mint does not yet support importing from Quicken, but Wesabe does support this option. One feature Wesabe does boast is an active user forum.

Importing from Quicken is the only way to get around the need to manually categorize types of spending, which is one drawback. Another downside is that Wesabe does not function with some accounts, which means you are stuck without information or having to manually enter it.

Manual Upload

Many free programs are available for monitoring your finances on the go, and most of them require manual upload of information. Before thinking this is more trouble than it’s worth, consider some of the advantages of sites like BudgetPulse, moneyStrands, and Buddi.

Since there is no account information entered, there is no risk of your accounts being compromised by hacking of these third-party sites. They are also more functional due to simplicity. Manual uploading may seem like time travel to the past after experiencing Mint, but these alternatives often include community, small business, and other group tools.

It is worth the time to find a program that best fits your financial situation and personality. Budgeting is the first step to overcoming debt and planning for the future. The only thing you’ll lose from a poor choice is time.

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