In the digital age, we have apps for shopping, locating coffee shops, and renting movies — it’s a good thing, then, that some responsible souls took it upon themselves to develop tools to manage our seemingly un-trackable spending. Whether you’re looking to devise a comprehensive budget, make a savings plan, or simply keep track of mounting bills, the following six apps can increase your financial savvy tenfold — all with the click of a mouse.
1. Mint. Probably the most popular option for its ease of use, Mint.com has been covered by the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal among countless others. Mint is a free, polished, comprehensive budgeting tool that graphs trends in spending and sends alerts to your phone when bills are due and accounts are at risk of being overdrawn. Users share their online banking data with the site — and in return, Mint automatically categorizes expenses and mines the data for cash-saving tips. It also suggests services that may help in your spending, such as low-interest credit cards. Mint also lets you set and track financial goals (ex. paying off credit debt, traveling) by asking you to provide information on how much the goal will cost and which funding sources you plan to draw from. As of October 2010, there are mobile Mint apps for both the iPhone and the Android.
2. Billeo. Billeo is a browser plug-in that manages and tracks your online shopping and bill-paying activities. It contains four “assistants”: the “bill pay assistant,” “shopping assistant,” “password assistant,” and “offer assistant,” which work together as well as separately to chart online shopping habits (and save online receipts) and chronicle bill history.
3. Yodlee. Mint and Yodlee have an interesting relationship: Yodlee at one time powered Mint’s “backend,” but Mint was bought by Intuit for $170 million dollars in 2009, little of which was retained by Yodlee. It continues to power over 150 financial institutions, and works with over 10,000 accounts, so linking one of yours to its interface should be relatively easy. It includes a bill pay tab as well as contains budgeting apparatus that tracks spending. In summary: Virtually the “heavy-duty” version of Mint, though perhaps less aesthetically pleasing.
4. Rudder. Rudder is a money management tool that can be used entirely from your email. It notifies you not only about upcoming bill payments, but tells you how fast you’re burning through your money. You can also add other “widgets” to your account (”What’s Left,” which gives you your balance once you pay off your bills, “Savings,” and “Bills.”) What Rudder doesn’t have, unfortunately, are mobile apps — but it makes up for it with its highly customizable user interface.
5. Buxfer. Buxfer is highly similar to Mint, but your financial information is stored offline — in your machine — using Google Gears capacity. The offline information syncs with your online account, and if you have a Google or Facebook account, you won’t even need another login. Buxfer also allows you to track spending among multiple parties (i.e., rent spending, grocery bills) and report IOU’s to each participating individual. Buxfer’s basic program is free, but has increasing levels of membership: Plus, for $1.79 a month, and Pro, for $2.79 a month (which allow you to increase the number of accounts you link to).
6. BillShrink. This excellent comparison engine aids in lowering your bills all around (credit cards, wireless service, television service, gas stations, savings and cds) by taking information you provide about your specific usage, scanning millions of data points, and informing you via e-mail if the site discovers a better deal based on your situation. Billshrink is especially useful for those that have acquired a ton of consumer debt and are looking for quick, easy ways to cut down on it.
Though the budgeting tools listed maintain a high level of security, as always, there is a certain unavoidable risk to be considered when dealing with programs that need access to sensitive financial information. Make sure to be vigilant with your data, and pull it from the web entirely if you won’t be using it often. If you stick with it, however, you’ll be a budgeting pro in no time — or, at the very least, you won’t be dipping into your savings to pay for scones and Grandes at Starbucks anymore.
About the Author: Joshua Bitton is a freelance writer for Echo Sign. EchoSign is the leader of the 2nd generation of electronic signature solutions – 100% web-based, fully digital signature solutions that do not require digital signature pads, digital certificates or scanning software. With EchoSign, there is nothing to install or learn.