When it comes to tracking your money, many people opt for computer software such as Quicken or Microsoft Money.
But there are now more and more Web sites being launched in an attempt to take some of the business away from these platforms. They claim they can make tracking your finances easier, and at no cost.
A note of caution: More of these Web sites are asking for the passwords to your financial accounts including those for banks, credit cards, loans and more. They do so in order to download all your information from these institutions so it can all be consolidated in their applications, sparing you the need to input data.
While this is convenient, you should consider whether it is worth the risk. All these sites claim to provide top computer security for your accounts; still, it's one thing to have a credit card stolen and quite another for someone to gain access to
of your financial accounts.
Having said that, here are some that are worth checking out:
ClearCheckbook acts much like a regular checkbook, enabling you to track your cash, checking, credit card and savings accounts. The advantage it provides over a standard checkbook is that it allows you to group purchases so you can chart where your money has been going over different periods of time.
Since the service is online, it's also available anytime you have access to a computer with an Internet connection no matter where you are. You can also update your account through mobile phone.
ClearCheckbook has a number of other useful features, including a way to set up email reminders to pay.
Geezeo combines personal finance services with social networking. The site enables you to track your own finances by importing and consolidating all of your financial accounts, including cash, checking, credit card and savings accounts, car payments, mortgage and student loans.
A nice feature is that you can then download this consolidated account information to your cell phone.
Geezeo also provides a social network where you can get advice and information about how to manage your money through Geezeo Groups. It does require that you provide the passwords for your financial accounts.
iOWEYOU takes a different approach: Instead of tracking your individual finances, it's a tool to use with others in order to divide shared expenses. Basically, it's a expenses-sharing calculator. Roommates or friends can use it to keep track of who owes what in terms of shared expenses.
You simply list the people with whom you share expenses. Anyone who incurs an expense that relates to specific members within the group or the group as a whole logs it into the group account, details what it was and who is required to contribute to the payment. The system then totals up what each member of the group owes at any time. It can also track all expenses incurred by the group over time.
While this is a British Web site, it works in any currency.
Mint, much like Geezeo, claims to take all the effort out of personal finances. It does so by having all the information from your financial accounts automatically downloaded into your Mint account and organized so you can see where your money is going. It also analyzes the services you are using and relays suggestions from partner Web sites on how you can switch to save even more money.
Mint also comes with a lot of additional features such as email alert reminders so that you never make credit card payments late, and so you know when bank accounts are getting low and when you're over budget in a selected category. It does require you to provide the passwords to your financial accounts.
NetworthIQ is a site where you can input your debts and assets in order to monitor your net worth. If you choose, you can also share and compare your net worth publicly with other members. This can help you see how you are progressing toward your financial goals over time as well as keep track of how others are progressing.
Since you input all the information, there's no need to provide information about your financial account or any personal information other than an email address.
Wesabe helps you manage your finances with an added a social networking component. While your individual information is anonymous, the system uses it to look for spending patterns among all members. The site also encourages you to share saving tips and financial goals with other member of the community.
As with Geezeo and Mint, all your financial information is available in one place, and you have to the ability to categorize your transactions any way you like to produce spending and earning summaries. It does require you to provide passwords to your financial accounts.
Take some time to explore these Web sites and find out which may work best for you and the way you handle your money. There have definitely been some innovations in tracking personal finances, and it it's worth keeping an eye on them.
Best of all, it won't cost you a dime.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.