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Online budgeting

Chris Farrell Aug 18, 2009

Question: Do you have an opinion regarding online budgeting websites? I inquire as my fiancée has recently discovered such a website at www.mint.com through a magazine she recently received. Specifically, as she told me, this particular site requires that you input certain credit card account and bank account information and then it shows you where your money is spent. I am perhaps a bit on the old-school side of things, but it sounds kind of odd to me and I told her I would look into it. I figured that I would ask a trustworthy and reliable source for their opinion on this particular site. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response. Justin, Sacramento, CA

Answer: I’m a fan of the new generation of online services for budgeting. I did an informal survey among some friends this past weekend and mint.com got good reviews. It’s easy to use. The site aggregates all your credit card, savings, investment, mortgage, auto loan and other financial data. You mine the information to see where your money is going. The program also has built-in guides for attacking your most expensive debts first if that’s an issue. Mint is a monitoring tool–you can only read the data, you can’t transfer money around–that facilitates budgeting. You did hit on the big caveat to Mint. You do have to give it your user name and password to various financial accounts. There are competing programs, such as Wesabe.com, that let you export and upload the financial information yourself. It’s more cumbersome, however. Here’s an interesting take on Mint and security.

By the way, check out your bank or credit union. The competition is spurring financial institutions to offer better yet simple budgeting tools. I live in an online world, but there is nothing wrong with monitoring finances with paper and pencil, either.

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