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Understanding Online Money Management Sites

By Stacy Gilliam

Managing your money well takes discipline. If you don't quite have it, online money managers may be the way to get you on track. The cyber world has seen an enormous growth in web sites built for people who struggle with budgeting, have trouble making their money grow, or are just in the dark about where the cash is going. Is online money management worth your time? Here are five reasons to give it a try:

  • Free to low-cost investment: Most sites are absolutely free, or at least offer a basic level of service at no cost with the option to upgrade.
  • Better view: You’ll get an instant snapshot of your financial health. Pie charts, graphs and the like will give you a visual for how you’re doing.
  • Tips and advice: Experts offer free financial recommendations on best ways to save based on your current spending habits.
  • Convenience: All of your financial data lives in one handy dandy spot.
  • Variety: There are plenty of sites to choose from, so you’re bound to find one you like.

To get started, browse through seven sites we've highlighted for you:
Pros: With a read-only format, the company can look but can't change any of your account information. Lets you compare your spending habits with those in your city or state. Sizes up your accounts with other financial products.
Cons: Only available in U.S. currency.

Beehive Budget Builder
Pros: No secret passwords or account numbers needed, so the system is very secure. You have complete control over updating the information.
Cons: Maybe you don't want all the control. If you want a site to do the work for you, use the Budget Builder in conjunction with other money management sites.
Pros: Checks in with you about recurring fees and subscriptions and offers them up as items to cut out of your budget. Offers a social network feature so you can chit chat with other savers and spenders. Lets you control how and when you upload your data by either downloading it directly from your bank to your computer or by uploading it to Wesabe yourself as a Quicken or Microsoft Money file, if you prefer. Can be updated via your mobile phone.
Cons: If the bank can’t connect to your bank using your log-in and password, you’ll have to take extra time to download it yourself.

Pros: Once your information is submitted, Thrive scores your financial fitness, and gives tips on how you can improve your standings. Accounts are read-only.
Cons: If the site doesn’t support your credit union or small bank, it doesn’t appear to offer any other options.
Pros: You have the choice to manually upload all of your financial data. Tracks loans between you and friends. It’s available in 28 languages and supports more than 50 currencies, including Pesos and Euros.
Cons: The free, basic plan doesn’t include unlimited accounts and unlimited budgeting. To add more than five accounts, you’ll have to upgrade to at least a $2.79/month service.
Pros: Offers a manual upload if the site doesn’t recognize your bank. You can compare yourself with others in the MoneyStrands community anonymously. Available for your iPhone.
Cons: What they refer to as a "community" of members only allows you to compare your finances with others, but doesn’t allow for real interaction.
Pros: Offers customized financial plans. Free for 60 days. No annoying ads, and no affiliations with banks so it gives you independent, unbiased advice.
Cons: Costs $4 a month, while most other sites are free.


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