The Way is Tough But There is Help

by Kevin on November 15, 2008

Drew Crawford is a software engineer in Birmingham, AL.  He has taken a special interest in online personal finance tools, as evidenced by a series in process at his personal blog.  He’s been a Buxfer user for a year and a half but continues to search for his favorite tool.

Whether you are up to you neck in debt, or trying to save up for your dream house, one thing we can agree on is that the way can be very difficult.  Sometimes it seems like you are doing everything you can to save money, but it just seems like your savings account isn’t getting any bigger or your debt any smaller.  Well, in the last few years there have been some tools emerge that can make everything much easier, and best of all these tools are free!  In this post, I will give you a brief description of a few of the free web-based tools that are available.

Perhaps the most important thing that online personal finance tools are able to do is automatically pull your transactions from your bank’s website.  No longer do you have to manually write down every single transaction that you make over the course of a month (though this could still be a useful practice).  However, after the transactions are saved these online tools will vary greatly with the functionality that they offer.  This is where you will need to decide which tool is most well suited for you.

I will begin with the one that I am most familiar with: Buxfer.  I tend to be a little bit obsessive when it comes to tracking where my money goes and Buxfer has some great reporting tools.  For example, I can see a line chart that shows my balance over a period of time that I set.  In the picture I have chosen to look at the last two and a half months to see if there are any patterns.  This chart lets me know if I’m doing good or if I need to tighten up a little.

Now, maybe you need more motivation to keep up with your finances on a daily basis.  It can be very easy to forget to check the website for a few days and next thing you know you have lost track of how much you are spending.  This is where a tool like Rudder could be very helpful for you.  You go through a one time setup on Rudder so that it knows where to get your transactions, etc.  Then it sends you an email everyday with updates regarding your finances.  Although Rudder lacks the analysis tools that Buxfer offers, it does do some calculations to give you an idea of how much money you will have left when all of you upcoming bills are paid.  This might be just the information that you need to stay on top of you finances.

The last tool that I will discuss in this post plays to the sociable side in all of us.  It is no secret that a good way to improve the likelihood of succeeding in your goals is to share them with others.  This is what the folks at Geezeo had in mind while developing their tool.  With Geezeo you are able to view and join goals that other users share.  For example, the top 2 goals on the site right now are “Build a 3 month cushion” and “Pay off all credit cards”.  There are also groups that you can join so you can interact with other users.  This interaction can make it much easier to keep your eyes on the prize and can offer encouragement when things aren’t going so great.

There are plenty of other tools out there that can aide you in tracking your personal finance (Quicken Online and Mint to name a couple).  However, you will want to be very cautious before you sign up with any site.  It would be worth your time to google the company and see what things are being said about it.  Security is very important when it comes to finances and you want to make sure that the company you are signing up for is very trustworthy.

Getting a firm grasp on your financial life can be very challenging to accomplish, but there are many options available today that can help you do just that.  Whether you need encouragement from other people or if you just need lots of charts and graphs to stare at, there is certainly a tool that is suited for you.

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