Five Ways To Manage Your Finances Online - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
12/13/2008
10:11 PM
Allen Stern
Allen Stern
Commentary
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Five Ways To Manage Your Finances Online

As the U.S. economy continues to slow, I am often asked for advice on selecting an online financial management tool. Here are five tools that can help you completely manage your finances and find ways to save more and spend less. Some of the tools provide a social networking layer which can tap into help from your friends and family on financial management.

As the U.S. economy continues to slow, I am often asked for advice on selecting an online financial management tool. Here are five tools that can help you completely manage your finances and find ways to save more and spend less. Some of the tools provide a social networking layer which can tap into help from your friends and family on financial management.Rudder Rudder (formerly Spendview) is based around the concept of "thinking forward," which means that the application keeps you informed of how much money you have left to spend. Rather than a budget based on categories, the Rudder system works on the concept of telling you how much you can spend based on your bills and other expenses.

It's a pretty interesting concept and one I haven't seen before -- either online or offline. Rudder taps into your financial accounts and prepares a summary e-mail daily. Rudder uses CashEdge to get your financial data, which is the same service that many banks use.

Billeo Billeo launched in 2003 and was created to help users manage, track, and pay bills online. Billeo is different than the other online financial tools that are discussed in this post as Billeo only provides help with bills. You set up each of your bills (credit card, cable, Internet, phone, etc.) and when you are ready to pay, Billeo sends you to the actual company Web site to pay. Billeo can create an "eWallet" on your local machine, which helps by filling in forms automatically. After you receive a payment confirmation from the provider, Billeo creates a screenshot in your eWallet for easy reference later on.

Billeo avoids many of the security issues by sending you to the merchant site for payment. I like this model a lot. Billeo also can help keep receipts organized by not having to print out or PDF every confirmation.

Geezeo Geezeo wants to be considered an "Online Quicken Alternative" and the product offers a lot of new and innovative options past what Quicken or Money do. Geezeo is a "smart" way of managing your money. I say smart because the system learns as it goes. You aggregate all of your bank account and credit information into the system, and it will smart-tag it as it goes along. You also can tag your items as well, and then the system learns from your tagging to apply to other users in the future. Geezeo also will offer suggestions on other accounts that you might want to use to either make more or spend less. When you sign on to Geezeo, it will make recommendations on how to improve your savings by moving to accounts offering higher interest rates. Also, the system will offer you suggestions on reducing your credit card debt by looking at using lower interest rate credit cards.

Geezeo aggregates checking and savings accounts, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, and investment data together. I believe it is one of the few online financial management services to manage investment data.

Wesabe Wesabe is an online financial management tool. It uses tagging to help organize your charges. Wesabe offers a mobile interface so you can enter transactions while you are out and about. It's much easier to remember to enter your trip to the spa after you pay rather than when you get home or in weeks when you receive your banking statement.

Wesabe aggregates data from its customers anonymously to provide tips and recommendations for its members. Let's say that 10 Wesabe customers show charges for a new pizzeria and then the next month there are no charges from that pizzeria -- it might be safe to say that the customers didn't enjoy the experience. Wesabe can help alert others in the same area to previous customer's reactions. And the same is true in reverse.

Wesabe offers an API, which means that developers can leverage and build applications on top of the Wesabe platform.

I am most impressed with Wesabe's ability to allow me to choose how much I want to trust them. Unlike the other listed services, I can select to either provide my banking details to Wesabe or I can manually download the details from my banking institutions and upload the details to Wesabe for processing. It's a great way to "try before you buy".

Quicken Online Quicken Online is the closest to a traditional money management service. Quicken Online works very similar to the Quicken that you may have used on your desktop. Quicken Online can send you reminders to your e-mail or mobile to alert you to pay your bills. Quicken Online offers a variety of charts and graphs so you can see where your money is coming and going. It offers a basic mobile interface so you can grab balances while on the go.

Quicken Online offers a "RealBalance" feature, which allows you to keep your account updated even when the bank is closed. Basically, if you process a check on the weekend or on a holiday, RealBalance allows you to process the transaction in your Quicken Online account so you always are presented with the real balances in your accounts. Quicken Online also keeps all banking data for 10 years so you can view historical information at any time.

All of the services listed above are free to use. My advice is to get comfortable with the Web site and company behind any online financial management services tool you select. I'd want to speak with the CEO of the company and let him or her sell me on why I should put my trust in their system. While I haven't heard of any issues yet, identity theft is too big an issue to not do your own research first.

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