Category Archives: PF Tools & Tips

Digital Finance February: Yodlee, Mint, Geezeo, Cake

Despite prior raves about various digital finance sites, I’m ultimately still left unsatisfied with my current offerings.

I think what I want is simple. Sure, I’d like some cute features and nifty community learning options. But what it comes down to it, I want an online finance site that:

1. Shows me my checking and savings account data in REAL TIME (not 6 hours ago, not 3 days ago, but as in up-to-the-minute updates).

2. Includes my investment earnings and losses for the day/month/year. Cake has a great feature showing me how I’m performing versus the markets and other users. I imagine once investments are on the site, this feature can’t be too hard to implement. I’d even be happy without it.

3. Budgeting tools. The sites are pretty good now at coming up with such tools. I love Mint’s budget breakdowns. But it’s not really helpful in the way I need it if the data isn’t actually up-to-date. It isn’t helpful if I have to go sign into BankofAmerica.com and breakdown my monthly spending just to keep on top of everything AFTER I sign into Mint or any other second party bank account tracking site.

4. A *bonus* would be if the site provides me with legitimate ideas on how to save money. Not like Mint, that tells me if I switch to a $47 a month Verizon plan I’d save $x per year when the fact of the matter is, the only reason the month cost me so much at Verizon is because I went over on my minutes. In fact, I’m ALREADY ON the plan they recommended. If your recommendations are going to be wack, I recommend not recommending at all. How’s that for a recommendation?

Cake.com
My latest find, thanks to a friend, is Cake.com. This site is… howdoyousay… hypothetically awesome for investors. That is, if it worked properly. (I’ve added my Sharebuilder account but am having trouble adding my Vanguard account). It’s not really like Mint, Geezeo or Yodlee at all, so it probably should be compared separately… although if Cake really wants my business, they’d simply have to add my savings and checking accounts so I can track all my money at one place. And really my Vanguard account would have to work too.

Mint.com
By far, Mint still has the best UI. I love Mint, I really do. But I’m getting impatient waiting for them to add investing accounts. If Cake, Yodlee and Geezeo can all add investing accounts, and if Mint is built on top of Yodlee’s architecture, I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to add investing accounts. Maybe they’re not focused on 24-year-old “old fogies” like me that enjoy putting some of my monthly income into Sharebuilder and Vanguard. But I like to budget my monthly income based on how the market is doing (obviously this month I’ve been failing at that!) I think Mint is going to be amazing in the long run. They’ve already added a bunch of nice features (like a chart showing me how my spending on different things compares to other people in the area). But, come on Mint, add my investment accounts and maybe figure out how to make my data “update” as in “update currently” and not “update what my bank statement looked like yesterday” and I swear, I’ll ask you to marry me.

Geezeo
Aw, Geezeo, Geezeo, Geezeo. I really want to like you. I found you and Wesabe first, and you were much better than Wesabe. You even have investment accounts now. But there’s something about your UI I don’t quite like. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m having trouble adding my Vanguard account on here too, or, when I tried to add my ING Direct Savings account and waited about 5 minutes for it to process, you told me “Heavy traffic is causing delays. Please try again. If you think this is a problem with Geezeo, please tell us by making a Support ticket.” I feel like there are just too many bugs on the site for it to be worth my time right now. Updates are just as delayed as any of the other sites. The UI is sloppy too. Mint, on the other hand, has such a nice design, with screen real estate divvied up quite nicely. Geezeo kind of looks like a kids toy. And the useful features are often buried at the bottom or hard to find.

Yodlee
Despite being boring (yawn) and basic (blegh) Yodlee is still my top digital finance choice. Why? On Yodlee, at the very least, I can see data from all of my accounts including Bank of America (checking, savings & credit card), ING Direct, Vanguard, Sharebuilder, Paypal and Prosper. Data is still a bit delayed, which bugs me, which means I still have to sign into BankofAmerica to check my current checking account status, but I can deal. At least I can see everything in one spot.

Got into the Mint beta!

However, I’m sworn to secrecy about its inner workings. But I will say – extremely vaguely – that I’m very excited to see what the Mint team has done. There’s a few kinks that still need to be worked out, of course – that’s to be expected in private beta, but I have a feeling Mint will end up winning me over amongst all the PF sites out there (I’ve also used Wesabe and Geezeo thus far.)

If you want your own invite, go over to http://www.mint.com and ask for one yourself. 🙂

Attempting to learn how to Budget with Beehive

Thanks to an anonymous poster for reminding me how I really need to start budgeting. After my little shopping trip to the local mall the other day, I realized just how little control I have over my spending. One of my biggest problems (and I know I’m fortunate to even have this problem) is that I have $20k+ in savings, so often I feel like even though I shouldn’t be spending that money (I should be SAVING it for grad school or a house) – but it just feels like those bigger ticket items are so unreachable that I might as well just spend my money now. And I get such a rush buying clothes. Especially ones that I feel good about buying… when I feel like I’ve bought items that I’ll wear again and again. It makes the endorphins kick in. Shopping is my drug. But it’s an expensive habit. And I need to quit it.

In any case, I’ve decided to try to make a budget and to… hopefully… stick to it. There’s no reason I can’t get through a month on a monthly salary of about $3000. It’s pathetic that I’m still losing money. Ok, so I haven’t actually gotten through my first “full” month of work, so last month was just a mess financially anyway, with my time off between jobs and everything. In any case, I looked online to find some budgeting tools, and of course, I found a zillion. I picked one out at random…

Beehive basically helps you make your budget. I’m going through right now and filling in all of my income and expense information. This should help me see exactly how much money I have to use to budget per month.

I’m trying to estimate low for non-fixed income, since I’d rather end up with more money at the end of the year than less. When they asked how much I make per year in investments, I put down $200. I think my CDs probably take in about $300 per year, but the way my other investments… Roth IRA and Mutual Fund are doing, I’ll be lucky if I break even this year.

Meanwhile, I’m estimating high on most expenses. I’m really confused on how to budget, but I guess ultimately if I put in $100 a month for clothing I NEED to stick to that.

Here’s what I’m budgeting for non-fixed expenses…

(per month)

Clothing: $100 (um, can I really just spend $100 a month on clothing?) $200: I don’t have to spend all $200, but I’d rather save some money for clothing each month and then go on a massive shopping spree, as opposed to only having $100 to spend.
Gasoline: $250 (it’s been that high in the past few months because of all of my commuting for various reasons. In september, my gas costs should come down quite drastically, but it can’t hurt to estimate high, right?
Entertainment
: $200. Should include alcohol costs. Because that’s what adds up.
Beauty: $100. I figure between eyebrow/face waxing, and my occasional hair cut, beauty costs average out to about a hundred a month. Maybe I should estimate higher. Hmm.
Alcohol: $50. Here, I’ll through in an extra $50 for those rare months when I actually have a social life.
Travel: $100. That’d get me to Hawaii in a year.

Anyway…

Now I’m entering in “Assets”

I’m confused as to how I should record my assets for my investments. Should I note how much I put into the funds, or how much currently exists in the funds? It doesn’t look like there is a spot to track the funds, or to note how much its average earnings (or losses) are per year. Hmm.

I guess I’ll put in what they’re currently worth. It will make me less sad to start off with a smaller amount in my budget anyway. And I can kind of (try to) forget that thus far my investments have lost $400.

15 minutes later.

Ok, so I’ve decided “Beehive” sucks as a budget tool. I really wish there were an easy way to make a budget and track my finances.

One thing I don’t like about Beehive is that when you’re inputing your expenses for the month, it lumps all your “personal expenses” together. That includes everything from clothing to gasoline. What I really need is a breakdown of my “personal expenses” spending. I guess it’s not a terrible idea to start thinking of it as a lump sum, because then I might be motivated to spend less on eating out in order to support my shopping addiction. But, still, I think it’s important for me to break down my spending via category, and see where the money goes each month.

Meanwhile, I find it’s really difficult to keep track of expenses that I am supposed to get reimbursed for at work. I feel like they should be counted separately, but I need to make sure to note that any future income that’s actually reimbursement needs to cancel out.

Does anyone out there know of a good way to make (and keep) a budget? Help!

15 Ideas for a Better Personal Finance Site: My Big Hopes for Geezeo, Wesabe, Mint

I’m still going back and forth between Wesabe and Geezeo. I’m curious to see what Mint has up its sleeves. For the time being, the sites don’t offer exactly what I want. Since I don’t have the time or skills to code my own perfect PF site, I figured I’d write out what the site would be like…

1. Sign In – would auto save my name, securely, on my computer.

2. Accounts – site would automatically update all of my accounts, including checking, savings, CD’s, and mutual fund accounts.

3. Graphs: Home Page would display relevant graphs/charts regarding my monthly spending versus income. Detailed graphs would be available to customize. For instance, I could place a graph on my homepage that would chart my monthly gas spending.

4. Tagging: each item would auto tag accurately as close as possible.

5. Tagging, part two: Retagging (or adding more tags) to items on a statement should be easy, and not require any additional drop down windows. Each item should include an entry text box where tags can be added. Each tag would autosave after a space is inserted. Double word tags would not require quotation marks. Tags would be separated by commas.

6. There would be a way to alter the date posted for income/spending since often I deposit my checks late or pay bills late. I still want to track these payments/income based on the month they should be posted for.

7. Graphics: Have little images for each basic tag.

8. Have separate tag/box to mark as “to be reimbursed” and a reminder to check that reimbursement has gone through

9. Optional income breakdown chart, for those of us who earn money from a variety of sources

10. Comparison on mutual fund income/losses versus other user’s investments.

11. Easy mobile access to my accounts.

12. Ability for all the accounts to “understand” each other. So if I transfer a certain amount of money from checking to an investment, it is not posted as spending for the month (it can be counted in separate investment category)

13. Budget tools: Ability to create charts w/ predetermined expenses, to know how much extra cash to spend/save per month is available.

14. Ability to pay bills directly through site, including cell phone bill and cable bill (I know this is a long shot, but It’d be nice)

15. Widgets and graphic saves that include graphs of above information that can be easily pasted in my blog.

Personal Finance Online: Geezeo versus Wesabe

I was Googling “personal finance widgets” when I found myself stumbling on two personal finance network startups. I found Geezeo first, and then through minimal research found out about its competitor Wesabe. The process to sign up for Geezeo was much easier, so for the time being I plan on using that site to explore the world of online personal finance social networking.

While I haven’t had a chance to surf around the site yet, thus far I easily imported my checking and credit card account information to my main page. I’m a little nervous about throwing my banking passwords at any web startup, as I’m sure while 99 percent of them have the best intentions, any little error in security could equate to a depletion of my bank accounts. And that would be so not cool.

In any case, I’m really tired of dealing with Bank of America’s “My Portfolio” tools — which have so many bugs they’re actually discontinuing the feature. Now that I’m attempting to move some funds over to a Roth IRA and Vanguard Index Fund again (the first attempt fell through, I guess I didn’t enter my checking account in correctly) it would be nice to track everything in one spot.

My biggest qualm with Geezeo at the moment is that they don’t support brokerage accounts yet… so for now, I can’t actually access my Vanguard or CD accounts. They’re obviously working to enable this feature soon, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and be patient. At some point my patience will run thing and I’ll check out Wesabe.

On another note, what’s up with the names of these sites? Maybe they have some deeper meaning, but I’m confused. “Geezeo,” what’s that about? It makes me think of some old geezer. If anything, I do get a general idea of being a poor old geezer, and wanting to save for retirement. Meanwhile “Wesabe,” which likely means something in another language, just brings to mind the hot green sauce that comes alongside Sushi. And what does that have to do with personal finance? Is it because Sushi is so gosh darn expensive? 🙂