It’s been a while since I’ve written on here because I’ve been so busy lately. Which is a good thing. I’m working a full-time job, spending some time on a side project, and not spending all that much money. All in all, I’m doing “good.” Heck, I’m doing amazing right now in relation to how I’ve done at any point in my life before – financially, personally, etc.
After finding out about personal finance sites like Mint, Geezeo and Wesebe in their early days, I’ve been enamored with the concept of using technology to make personal finance easier to grok. While Geezeo and Wesabe (and Cake and Covestor, etc) had some decent features, Mint ultimately took the cake… with the frosting.
Even though I was a little worried when they were bought by Intuit, I’m still a fan. I can’t say I contribute to their wealth as I’m pretty smart about my credit cards and cds, so they never have any good deals to offer me. (Mint, take note of BillShrink.com, which is offering a cool find cheapo gas near you feature… which is actually useful for me. Though I’m not sure how they’d make money off of that feature, other than hoping you get a CD or Credit Card through them on an educated whim.)
Anyway, what has me all buzzing about Mint today? Their planning tools that they rolled out a few months ago. They weren’t that useful to me online only, but now that I have my shiny new iPhone having the Mint app makes my financial life a thousand times easier and better.
Just tracking my expenses and income per category, and having access to that at all times, is giving me so much more control over my financial life. And it feels good. Minty good.
While this month my expenses have been (scary) more than I’d like, starting in 2010 I’m going to use Mint to carefully BUDGET (like really budget) and account for every little thing I spend. It’s so easy to do that because Mint knows. Every once in a while I have to adjust a category or categorize a check, but that’s easier than inputing everything by hand. I am so excited to embark on a year of incredible savings and budgeting thanks to my Mint iPhone app and Mint.com (and yes, even (M)intuit.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.