Lately I've been hearing a lot about mint.com. It's been around forever, I'm sure, but I've been reading about it in some of the magazines I get. Probably because the beginning of the year is when people try to buckle down and clean up their finances, set a budget, resolve to save money, etc.
In any case, I decided to check it out. Mint.com is a free site that offers help tracking bank account balances, categorizes expenses, calculating income, and creating a budget. You can also set goals such as pay off debt, create an emergency savings, save for college, etc.
When I first went on, the website asked if I wanted to add any bank accounts or credit cards. There was a spot to search for my bank (which is a small privately owned bank). Once I found it, all I had to do was enter my bank account's username and password, and mint.com automatically updated all my banking information onto their website, including a preliminary categorization of some of my expenses. Because I'm such an organizational freak, we have about 7 different bank accounts. Mint.com gathered information from the all, providing a summary of our total cash, and also our total balance outstanding on our credit cards (which they listed as credit card debt, but don't let that scare you; it actually just refers to all outstanding balances on your credit cards, whether current or late). There's a spot to add your vehicles, investments, and real estate, and mint.com will calculate your total net worth.
You can set up a pretty detailed budget for both your income and expenses. I didn't look too much at how the website automatically classified expenses, but I think that would be pretty handy. Just by entering our bank account information, mint.com generated some basic budget categories for me, and told me I had $7 left to spend on my gas budget for the month.
Obviously it would need some adjustment from its standardized settings.
Overall, I think I would like this site if I weren't already using something else. It's easy to set up and start using, and probably takes less time to use than my current excel system. However, I like to be more hands-on with categorizing expenses, and I like a lot of detail (my excel sheet is 125 rows of income/expense classifications). I also track our current balances on our credit cards each month, so I can reconcile them to the statements when they come. I have tabs for our current cash status by account, and for the money we are saving for our house, including a formula telling me how much we need to save each month to reach our goal by a certain deadline. I'm one step away from pie-charting our annual expenses.
Yes, I'm an excel freak.
If you don't budget, or don't track your expenses (there's a difference...we don't budget per se, but I do track every dollar we spend), and you want to start, I would recommend mint.com. Or if you're crazy like me, excel.