Using websites to manage your finances

Is it easier to manage your finances in the cloud that with regular old pen and paper.

The holiday season may be a time when you don't even want to look at your personal finances because it feels like money is flying out the door.

You certainly don't want to go to a website that puts all your financial accounts in one place and makes charts and graphs out of your money - or do you?

Judging by the success of some of these sites, more and more Americans think it's a good idea to do just that. The industry leaders in this sector include MintLearnVestYodlee, and Buckster. So how can you judge whether joining one of these sites is right for you?

"It can be busy work," says Marketplace's senior producer of personal finance Paddy Hirsch. He notes it takes a lot of time and effort to input all your data and keep it up to date. "But if you're really committed to doing this, the one thing you should be most careful about is security."

All of your financial data will be centralized in these systems, which, in some cases, then store the information in the cloud.

Hirsch points out that while they are well developed platforms, in order to make all those charts, they need a lot of information about your spending and saving habits. He says you've got to feel comfortable about surrendering all of that information if you're going to get the most out of the site.

Another hazard? Many of the sites are free -- which means they often bombard you with deals and ads.

Still, it isn't all bad, says Hirsch. "They can be extremely useful to people who are trying to balance budgets and trying to get their personal spending habits under control," he points out.

About the author

Paddy Hirsch is a Senior Editor at Marketplace and the creator and host of the Marketplace Whiteboard. Follow Paddy on Twitter @paddyhirsch and on facebook at www.facebook.com/paddyhirsch101
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I have been using Quicken personal money products for about 15 years now. It takes about 3 minutes to download all of your purchases and I do it about 3 times a week. It knows what category to plop your charges into. You can put your financial stuff in one time and do a one-click download--about 30 seconds. It also interacts with tax software. Easy to learn and runs without major bugs. It is not free but has a lot of high priced features for about 50 or 60 bucks...I'm surprised that you did not mention this software!

Hey Jeremy, today you commented in this article, "..if you're getting something for free you're not the customer, you are the product." Would you expand on that and discuss the meaning behind that comment? I've never heard that before. Thank you.

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