A few years ago, Trevor Flannigan decided to start managing his budget using the online tool Mint.com. The 20-something suspected he could be spending less money each month, but he needed help organizing his various credit, debit, and other bank accounts. So he entered his nine accounts into the website and started tracking how much he spent.
The website now warns him when he approaches the limit of his monthly budget in different categories, such as eating out. "When I see I already spent x amount of dollars, I say, 'It looks like I'm having soup for the last week of the month,'" says Flannigan.
Flannigan is among the thousands of consumers who have incorporated online personal financial management tools into their lives. While they have been around for years, only recently have they started to really take off, with about 1 in 4 consumers using some kind of tool. "With the downturn causing more financial headaches for people, they've become a lot more disciplined, so they are turning to tools," says Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at the research and advisory firm Aite.
A survey by Aite suggests that personal finance tools actually change people's behavior, too. In a survey of people who use such tools, 3 in 4 said they now have better control of their finances. Two in 5 said they are saving more money, and 1 in 5 said they are paying less in late fees.
Dozens of tools now exist, so how can you pick the best one for you? Here's an overview of 10 popular options:
Do you have other favorite online tools or sites? Please share your suggestions below.