Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Refreshing money management

Two months ago I signed up for three online personal finance management sites. My intention was to compare them and then tell you which I liked best. The three sites were: Quicken, Microsoft Money and Mint. Mint and Quicken are free. Microsoft Money offers a free 30 day trial.

Right away I ran into trouble. Microsoft Money wouldn't run. Maybe it's just me, but I wasn't all that surprised.

I began using Quicken and Mint right away. They have a lot of similar features. Both will connect to your checking and savings accounts and automatically track transactions. They allow you to include accounts from several different financial institutions including loans. They also give you neat pie charts to visually show where your money is going.

Now I have to admit that this isn't a completely objective comparison. For one thing I'm not diligent about keeping track of every penny. Back in the days before online banking I tried using Quicken software and did so with some success. But once online banking came along I dropped Quicken like a rock. I made a rough budget and kept an eye on my account through online banking. So now the idea of visiting even just two different sites to keep track of my money just makes my giant "to-do list" even more overwhelming.

After two months which one wins my attention. Well that's easy because I'm only using one of them. The reason I'm using this service at all is not because it's free, though that certainly helps. It's because it nags me. Every week I get a reminder of what my account balances are. As soon as I go over budget in a category it's there in my email box telling me so.

Which nasty service does this? Mint. And I love it. I never hear from Quicken and I'm not sure I remember my log in at this point. But Mint is giving me a fresh perspective. I'm actually paying attention to where our family spends money. That rough budget was not accounting for a whole lot that left us wondering where the money went. I could probably put together a detailed budget just using online banking, but I'd never do it--too time consuming. I spend about 10 minutes on Mint a week, and that's because I'm over analyzing.

I do know that Mint seems to do a better job of automatically categorizing expenses than Quicken. And though a Quicken loving friend tells me that Quicken learns well, quickly I have no patience for the learning curve. I also find Mint to be more visually appealing and easy to navigate. It's super easy to set up your own categories as well. And every time I log in my budget is right there.

The one feature that I like is that Mint can tell me how my expenses compare to others people in the Denver area. I know I shouldn't compare myself to others, but I do it anyway.

I know this probably sounds like an endorsement, but it's not meant to be. I just know that if you are lazy but concerned about your finances then Mint might also appeal to you. For others that don't need proding Quicken may work well. Whatever. It's good to know that there are free services out there.

1 comment:

  1. Hey hopefully you get this, I was curious. A friend showed me mint.com and im ecstatic to try it! It seems fantastic and I've been meaning to track/budget my finances for awhile now. I can't seem to get Coors Credit Union as an option for a checking/savings account tho. If you were able to would you perhaps be willing to help me out? If so shoot me an email, DannyRandolph@gmail.com - thanks in advance! p.s. great blog you've got here, lots of great info :)