Three Online Financial Tools You Shouldn’t Live Without

by Vincent King · 10 comments

Using online financial tools

Each new year, your excellent intentions are put to the test. You desperately want to escape from the ever-mounting pressure of your debt — and you resolve to do so. Unfortunately, the ability to stick to your resolutions eludes you.

With your resolution to save and budget better, you create a convoluted spreadsheet, including every dime you earn or spend. It’s as scary as it is complicated.

This spreadsheet means you must record every penny that passes through your hands. You have to keep every receipt. This system would make even the world’s best financial experts cringe.

But you stick to it. For about a week.

By the end of the second week, you’ve only tracked a third of your receipts, ruining the accuracy of your bottom line. You can’t remember which pair of pants you left them in, and you’ve lost two whole days worth of spending.

Now, you throw away all your best intentions, because you’re frustrated at yourself, your situation, and your hopelessly broken system.

Sound familiar?

If you had only considered the online financial tools available to help you, you could have avoided these horrible feelings and the downward spiral of financial blahs.

There are many wonderful online tools at your disposal, but I’m going to highlight three that will change the way you budget and save, as well as help you realize your intention to get out of debt.

Three Essential Online Financial Tools

1. Mint

Many users have complained that Mint must be connected to their bank account to do its thing, which raises concerns about security. Yet, with Mint’s 128-bit encryption system (the same system that banks use), no-transfer policy for money, No Hacker verification system, and email alert policy for large purchases, you can rest assured that your information is safe.

Once you feel comfortable using Mint, you’ll be able to harness its many powers:

  • Automatic budget tracking. (No more searching for and recording receipts!)
  • Automatic spending categorization. With this feature, you’ll be able to clearly see (in beautiful graphs, nonetheless) where your money is going.
  • Financial goal-setting. Set a specific budget with clear goals and track your progress as the year goes along.

The mobile app syncs with the desktop program, making Mint a complete money tracking and planning tool. Establishing and executing your goals will be a breeze, and you’ll never again have to worry about recording your receipts.

2. Manilla

Manilla is a powerhouse organization system. When you sign up for the service, you can add all of your different bills and statements, and it will keep up with your paperwork… for free. There’s no cost to you, because the billing agents must pay to use Manilla (a cost they’re gladly willing to cover, since it’s lower than mailing costs).

Manilla is more than a filing system; it’s a command center.

With a single login, you can access all of your important accounts, such as credit cards, banks, and utilities. No more passwords to keep track of. No more login names to remember. Manilla is the only one you need.

With Manilla as your filing and bill alert system, you’ll never forget to pay a bill again and will thereby eliminate late fees AND boost your credit score.

3. Credit Sesame

Credit Sesame provides a detailed look at your loans and debt. They monitor how you’re doing financially and suggest ways you can save on fixed expenses, like your mortgage. This program also checks banks and markets every day and uses your credit score to notify you of deals and promotions that will save you money.

As an added bonus, they’ll give you a free copy of your credit report when you sign up (which you should take a close look at each year).

With these three must-use tools, you’ll never have to create another budget spreadsheet or register another receipt again. Best of all, you won’t feel like a failure because you won’t be throwing your plan out the window. Use these tools wisely, and you’ll end the new year the way you planned: steady on the path towards achieving your financial goals!

What’s your favorite online financial tool? 

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott December 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

You should also try Credit Karma for free credit score tracking.

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Alex in Virginia December 18, 2012 at 4:58 am

Nifty-sounding tools, but as I read your post I could not envision how I could make any of them work for me, given that I pay for virtually all day-to-day expenses (groceries, restaurants, clothing, gasoline, auto expenses, travel costs, medical co-pays, diy materials, etc, etc) with credit cards, which I then pay off when billed. How would any of these tools capture all those expenses?

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WJ Warner December 18, 2012 at 5:49 am

When you think of a Credit Card Account in this manner the transactions on the card can quickly be applied to Revenue/Expense categories. Whether it is groceries, dining out, gas, a night at the movies or your electricity bill every charge to your Credit Card account can be categorize.

Payments to a Credit Card Account are really Cash Transfers. You take cash that has been deposited in your Checking Account from your employer and transfer funds to your Credit Card Account.

Revenue and Expenses on a Credit Card need to be captured in the same fashion as any other account. The power of the software is in its ability to bring the data from all accounts together and present a clear picture of total revenue and spending.

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WJ Warner December 18, 2012 at 5:50 am

Alex in Virginia:

A Credit Card Account is no different than a Checking Account or a Savings Account. There are Cash Deposits in the form of the payment you make to the issuer. There are Cash Withdraws in the form of the charges you incur from your vendors.

When you think of a Credit Card Account in this manner the transactions on the card can quickly be applied to Revenue/Expense categories. Whether it is groceries, dining out, gas, a night at the movies or your electricity bill every charge to your Credit Card account can be categorize.

Payments to a Credit Card Account are really Cash Transfers. You take cash that has been deposited in your Checking Account from your employer and transfer funds to your Credit Card Account.

Revenue and Expenses on a Credit Card need to be captured in the same fashion as any other account. The power of the software is in its ability to bring the data from all accounts together and present a clear picture of total revenue and spending.

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WJ Warner December 18, 2012 at 5:35 am

I have been an avid user of Microsoft Money. For over a decade I’ve downloaded transactions from my bank, easily categorize them and turned the data from the bank into the information I used to tame the personal financial beast.

Sadly Microsoft has stopped producing upgrades for Money. They have however released a “Sunset” version that is free to download at the following link: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/search.aspx?q=Money+plus+sunset

It will run on XP, Vista or 7. It’s a great program and everything is kept on your personal computer vs. the cloud.

Another alternative is Intuit Quicken. It is comparable to Microsoft Money.

Both programs allow you to download your transactions from your financial institution(s) (this includes checking, saving, credit, invest and other account) and then categorize them to your customizable revenue/expense catagories. The reports options then let you data mine all your accounts as a single information source and help you get a more accurate picture of where you are and how you got there.

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CF December 19, 2012 at 10:42 am

I currently use xpenser.com for expence tracking and it even has a way to record purchases via moblie phone (so you can do it as soon as you have an expence or purchase). You can take pictures of your recipts too and it records everything by tags, so you can run expence reports. I started using this in 2010, after almost 10 years of tracking expences via a “convuluted excel spreadsheet”. It works for me, but I think I want to take this a step further…and explore some of these other online options.

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CF December 20, 2012 at 10:25 am

FYI….Manilla, doesn’t work for Canadaian accounts…. too bad :(

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AJ March 28, 2013 at 8:46 am

I keep it simple yet flexible; good old Excel.

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KT March 28, 2013 at 9:14 am

I love mint.com. Best financial tool I’ve ever used. Been tracking my expenses for years using it and it makes it very easy to do so. Everything is in one place and it’s also a great security tool because I can pull up all my online accounts (financial institutions, credit cards, even trading & retirement accounts) in one place daily to make sure no one is using credit that I haven’t used in a while.
I can’t recommend them highly enough. Best part? It’s free to use! As I said before, I LOVE mint.com.

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Ruth Cooke August 22, 2013 at 7:51 am

Manilla is the only one of those I could use, but it’s only for US accounts. Is there anything like it for Canadians yet that you know of?

For tracking expenses, I use a dollar store notebook and a pen. Works for me. :D

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