Everything You Need to Manage Your Money Online
If you’re like me, your bank account tends to live by the seat of its pants. Money comes in, money goes out, records are a bit of a blur. And of course a freelance lifestyle doesn’t tend to help either, with its occasional large sums of money and long droughts in between payments.
If you were to ask what my personal brand of financial plan is, I would have to say it’s something like: try to earn so much that it doesn’t matter too much if I have a financial plan. Well as anybody who actually has a bank balance will tell you, that’s a dumb plan. So as of today I’ve decided to do something about this somewhat grave situation, before I have children and mortgages appear to make it all that much harder.
Fortunately for me, web man that I am, there is pretty much everything I need online. This morning I sat down to compile a toolkit for getting my personal finances in order. Since some of our freelance audience will no doubt be in the same boat as me, here it is for your benefit too!
Personal Finance Blogs
I’ve spent 28 years taking my own advice, and frankly it hasn’t gotten me very far. So it’s time to listen to someone else. Here are the best and brightest voices online on money matters:
The big daddy, the big kahuna, the big cheese. Get Rich Slowly has managed to attract some forty thousand subscribers and there’s no doubt why. There is some sharp, quality advice here, see posts like: How to Get Out of Debt and Basic Tips on Tipping (luckily we don’t have tipping here in Australia!). There’s also the odd amusing post like Lifestyles of the Rich and the Stupid (how is that I know that if I ever manage to qualify as the first, that I’ll wind up being the latter)
Wisebread not only has the best name of all the personal finance blogs, it also has the best design (in fact I’ve pinched a few design ideas from them myself!) Of course they also have some great blog posts like How to Live With Inflation and How to Travel in Style … for Free.
The Simple Dollar says that it’s for people who need cents and sense – sounds like me. Some of their best articles include Spending Far Less than You Earn and 10 Steps to Financial Success for a Minimum Wage Earner.
Gawker (the people behind Lifehacker) have their own money blog, though it’s not as personal as some of the others, there’s still plenty of good stuff, mixed in with the usual news and snarf. Click on Personal Finance to see the most relevant articles.
ZenHabits is a blog well known to readers of FreelanceSwitch and though it’s not all finance by any means, Leo does publish a good number of articles in his usual killer style, some favourites are: The Cheapskate Guide – 50 Tips for Frugal Living and 73 Great Debt Elimination Techniques.
OK Lifehacker really isn’t a personal finance blog, but if you search under their money tags like Money, Personal Finance, and Budgeting then there’s a lot of good snippets of articles, reviews of web apps and the odd feature article.
Then you’re a better reader than me, but if that’s the case, try the Money Blog Network, it includes many of these blogs and a few more to boot.
Money Management Tools
Wesabe thankfully couldn’t care less what country you are in. This is presumably because they don’t actually connect to your bank account. Instead they provide you a series of uploader tools (including a Firefox extension) that let you upload an account export from your bank account. Once you have your accounts in there, you tag and organise your spending and you can do the usual things like graph and analyse.
The kicker is that Wesabe is money management meets web 2.0 and has a large community of other struggling and mastering people just like me (hopefully not too much like me). Using this shared knowledge base you can get tips on savings tailored to your spending patterns, make goals and generally interact with other people. I’ve only just arrived at Wesabe, but this looks to me like a pretty neat aspect to it all and I’m looking forward to exploring it more.
Mint was released near the end of 2007 and by all accounts is a fantastic product (sadly for me it’s made for a US audience). It connects with your bank and card providers to auto-balance and auto-categorize your transactions, it charts your spending trends and patterns and recommends everything from credit cards to bank accounts to cable providers. You can read two fairly thorough reviews of Mint here and here.
If I was an American I would seriously consider Mint, but as it is, I’m sticking with Wesabe!
Geezeo is a product that looks quite similar to Wesabe in many ways. It’s got the usual money management tools and a bit of the social power of Wesabe mixed in for good measure. The interface is very web 2.0 which I don’t mind and I like their tag ‘educated financial decisions’, but alas I came to Wesabe first and now I’m a convert. Still Geezeo looks like it’s worth checking out if you’re still deciding.
GnuCash – If you like your accounts mixed up open-source style, then you’ll love GnuCash. From all accounts it’s quite powerful, though personally – and you can call me shallow – I just can’t get past the open source homepage to find out for myself.
QuickenOnline – Quicken is a major player offline and have taken their product on to the web to make sure they don’t leave people like me behind. Their product has the benefit of a familiar face to it as well as a brand you probably already trust. You can read a good review at GetRichSlowly
Never fear, Mashable who are renowned for gigantic lists has a post titled 40+ Resources for Managing Your Money and there are more links than you can poke a stick at.