For the past several months I have been reviewing free online budgeting programs in order to make a determination of which one would best meet my needs in getting my finances under control. The programs I selected to review were Budget Tracker, Budget Simple, Every Dollar, and Mint.com. If you would like to catch up on prior posts, here are the links to my summary reviews for each.
My goals in this research was find a program that provided the most features at no cost, that was easy to understand, and that did not require a huge time commitment to maintain. All of these program we’re very diverse in scope and features. Some of the features offered were surprisingly good…some questioningly no-so-good. But I have narrowed it down to my top favorite and a runner up. Although, no one program was completely perfect, these two seemed to be the best fit for my criteria. Ok, now for the big reveal….drum roll….my top pick for a free on-line budgeting program is……MINT.COM!
Ok, I know what you are thinking. One of my criteria was that the program is simple and easy to use. Mint.com was definatly not simple, but it was easy to use. Also, after exploring the program, it offers so much for free it is just hard to pass up. After the initial set-up the benefits of using the program started immediately. It alerted me to finance charges that I was paying on a no interest account. If I had not paid this off I would have been hit with back interest and it would have cost me more money in the long run. ( Now I learned not to fall for those no interest deal offered by Best Buy and Rooms to Go.)
Also, this program gave me options for lowering my auto insurance that I would have never found on my own. It also took the guess work out of budgeting and alert me when I was spending too much in one of my budget category amounts. It did not require much of a time commitment after the accounts are linked. All the information just feeds right into the program. The overview screen does a really good job of letting you know where your finances stand, what bills are coming up and where your are in achieving your goals.
The Goals. This is one of the areas that really won me over. Most of the time your goal can be established in 4 steps. It wasn’t some pie in the sky goal either. It kind of forces you to really consider what you are willing to do to achieve your goal, how much you are willing to save and how you will track your progress. It made me realize I am still carrying way to much credit card debt and I couldn’t fudge or glaze over it since it was automatically linked to the credit card account. Yes, I had to face the music about the amount that was on my credit card and figure out a plan.
I will not hide that I had some struggles with setting up the account. It took a long time in my opinion to gather all the account documents, but it also made me realized a lot about my finances that I had not wanted to tend to. Like what the heck am I investing in? I had started an IRA a long time ago and while imputing the data for this account, I realized the needle in my balance had not moved….in 5 years? Why? Well since I didn’t understand investing (and are just starting to learn about it now) I never actually put my money into any type of fund, or bonds, or ETF or anything. So for 5 years it just sat there like it was, in a no interest saving account. Ugg…what a waste.
So Mint. com while very large and not exactly simple, was the program that taught me the most about my finances in the shortest amount of time. It gave me the most benefit right up front, not months down the road. It is also the easiest to maintain. These are the main reasons I am going with Mint.com.
The runner up for me was Every Dollar. It was simple, and easy to use and easy to maintain. However, it did not offer enough in the free version to compete with Mint.com. Although, I am a Dave Ramsey fan and follow (or try to) his Baby Steps. The Every Dollar program didn’t have enough in the way of setting up comprehensive goals for me. But compared to Budget Simple and Budget Tracker, it was the by far the better of these programs.
Hope you enjoyed this On-line Budget Review series. If your would like read the entire series click on the Finance tab. In the weeks to come I plan on formulating the whole series into a Free Downloadable E-Book. Please leave me a comment and let me know which program you liked the best. Also, if there are any other review series that you would like me to do,
I would love to hear from you.