11 Free Money Tools

  • Re-tooling Your Finances Your Way

    There are plenty of ways to track your spending that don't require a checkbook register or require you to give up your login information for every account you can check online.  And if you've resolved to get your finances in order, you don't have to spend $150 on Quicken.  Here's how some free personal finance tools stack up, and how ways they'll let you customize your own money outlook.Photo Credit: BudgetPulse
  • Moneytrackin.com

    Why we like it: Unlike some other personal finance tools out there, Moneytrackin' lets you tag your transactions however you'd like to make sorting and organizing easier.  For instance, you don't have to label your restaurant splurges under a generic "restaurant" tag; you can file expensive outings under "bad_ideas" or another word or phrase of your choosing. Downside: Like many of these free tools, you have to enter everything in yourself.  It doesn't automatically update your debit and credit card transactions, checks posted and ATM withdrawals every time you log in.  On the other hand, this manual approach forces you to be more aware of your spending. Photo Credit: Moneytrackin.com
  • Budget5000

    Why we like it: If you tend to pay for day-to-day purchases in cash, this tool might be better for you than some of the more automated programs that can't record all the transactions you make in cash.  And you can be as detailed as you like. Instead of just listing ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions for example, you can list the exact price you paid in cash for a gallon of milk at the store. Downside: Not only do you have to record all of your purchases, since you're tracking every cent you spend, using it feels like the personal finance version of a dieter's calorie log.  Plus, the site's budgeting advice reads like a 12-step program.  If that's the kind of thing that works for you though, then great. Photo Credit: Budget5000
  • Buddi

    Why we like it: Buddi takes on the look of your own computer's operating system, so you may be more comfortable with the familiar look as opposed to a fancier program that takes over your computer.  If you consider tracking your personal finances a necessary evil, this straightforward tool can be a simple way to handle something you hate.  It's completely free, but donations are accepted. Downside: If you need more interactive features and snazzier graphics to help you look at your finances, this may not be for you. Photo Credit: Buddi
  • dsBudget

    Why we like it:  When you're looking at tons of text and numbers, color coding can be a vital visual tool to help make sense of all of your transactions.  dsBudget lets you set your own color coding scheme.  Plus, all on one page, you can see a breakdown of your expenditures by segment, and you can watch your bank balance dwindle on a line graph.  Now that's motivation not to overspend. Downside: This open source software from independent developer Soichi Hayashi is still in testing, so there may still be a few kinks to work out. Photo Credit: dsBudget
  • MoneyStrands

    Why we like it: With MoneyStrands You can compare your spending habits with those of your own demographic.  You can also set alerts to tell you when you've reached a monthly limit you've set on, say, clothes shopping. Downside: moneystrands tries too hard to sound "cool."  For instance, it claims to "Make life easier and maybe even a speck more fun while helping you do what you gotta do when it comes to 'Getting your money in top shape.'" Photo Credit: MoneyStrands
    AceMoney Lite
  • AceMoney Lite

    Why we like it: In addition to budgeting tools, you can track your investments with AceMoney Lite.  If you hold a bunch of individual stocks, the software goes online to update stock prices.  Plus, all of your files are password protected and backed up.  And if you operate a small business, AceMoney can help automate order processing through PayPal and other e-commerce intermediaries. Extra paid features: The full version of AceMoney, which allows you to track an unlimited number of accounts, costs $30 for a license on a single computer, but all upgrades and tech support are free. Photo Credit: AceMoney
  • BudgetPulse

    Why we like it: BudgetPulse lets you set savings goals and share them with friends and family and even receive donations via PayPal or Amazon (Stock Quote:AMZN).  And you don't have to worry about identity theft, the site says.  Instead of storing your bank account logins in your BudgetPulse account, you can import your bank statements as CSV or other files or enter them manually. Downside: Will your friends and family really donate funds to your pool of disposable income?  This may be a more useful tool for financially dependent teenagers who've opened their first bank accounts. Photo Credit: BudgetPulse
  • MySpendingPlan

    Why we like it: You can use MySpendingPlan to get coupons, find the cheapest gas stations in your area in addition to setting budgets with the help of tips on the site.  It's all online, so you can access it on any computer. Downside: Advertisements can be a bit intrusive, especially the so-called recommendations given during the online "interview." This virtual Q&A session is designed to help them to get to know your spending habits before setting up your account. Photo Credit: MySpendingPlan
  • Billster

    Why we like it: We love that the Billster demo version uses names of characters from GhostBusters, but besides that, you can change the layout of your information just by dragging and dropping lists and charts where you want to see them. You can also enter the names and contact information of people who owe you money and connect with them through Billster. Downside: If, on the other hand, you're the one who owes money and you and your lender are connected through the site, don't expect them to forget exactly how much you owe. Photo Credit: Billster
  • Mvelopes

    Why we like it: You don't just set spending limits on different types of purchases using Mvelopes.  You're actually allocating money to an "envelope" for each spending category, then spending out of that envelope instead of one big slush pile.  This helps you make sure you have the money set aside for every bill that needs to be paid and for everything you need to buy. Downside: It's expensive.  The only thing free here is a 14-day trial, but it may help get you started on taking up the envelope budgeting system. If you can pay for it beyond the 14-day trial, the price breaks down to $7.90 per month if you pay for two years upfront or $13.20 per month if you pay for three months upfront. Ouch. Photo Credit: Mvelopes
    Quicken’s Mint.com
  • Quicken’s Mint.com

    Why we like it: Mint.com, a popular, free online personal finance tool is now owned by Quicken (Stock Quote: INTU), is a straightforward and easy-to-look-at tool with color-coded pie charts, lists and graphs. Using your bank login information, Mint updates your account balances each time you log in and can automatically filter each transaction into a specific category. Downside: The automatic filters can be a little off, putting transactions it categories they don't belong in, or leaving them uncategorized.  If the the pie charts showing how much you've spent and what you paid for looks wrong, you may want to go over individual transactions to see if something's out of place.  For between $60 and $150, you can get Quicken software that adds the ability to protect your online banking data, facilitate tax preparation and even keep track of business income and manage rental properties. Photo Credit: Mint.com
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