Every time you sign in, you'll get the latest balances on all your accounts. But this is more than a money-tracking service; it is also a simple budgeting tool that allows you to set up a spending plan, and instantly, graphically see how close you are to your category budget goals.
The program is so "smart" that it also reminds you of upcoming regular monthly bills, so you aren't tempted to touch your cash balances. If you pay your rent or electric bill or car loan around the first of the month, it will remind you that the bill is soon coming due, and that you should reserve your cash to pay that bill.
Among the most popular free services for online tracking of personal finances is Mint.com, with more than 1 million users. It's simple to securely register all your online banking and credit card accounts, as well as mortgage and student loans, as well as your 401(k), IRA and other investments.
Based on your previous spending patterns, Mint.com helps you create a budget. It even sends text or email alerts when you're getting close to your budget category limits or credit card limits.
Mint.com just launched Financial Fitness, a new feature that takes the site from information to action, creating a step-by-step plan for each user. It becomes an online financial adviser, expanding its advice beyond just tracking spending to encourage planning in various categories. The program awards "points" for following its advice, such as increasing your savings. Those points don't buy you anything, but they do serve as a psychic reward for good financial behavior.
Other online budgeting sites such as Geezio.com and Mvelopes.com offer social networking so you can see how others in your age are doing with their spending plans, and commiserate with each other over your financial difficulties. Geezio.com is partly owned by TheStreet.com.
The most important thing in making a budget is not the tool or product you choose. The key ingredient is your own self-discipline in actually using the program on a regular basis until the concept of focused spending becomes a habit. That's the only way to gain control over your money. And that's The Savage Truth.