Online banking will make your life easier. Of course, one visit to your financial institution’s convoluted and excruciatingly slow website makes it clear that it was designed as a convenience for your bank, not for you. Enter Mint.com: a user-friendly personal finance web-app that pulls data from all your online accounts and lets you track your investments, credit and spending habits based on the aggregate.
Mint will notify you when your paycheck clears, or a week before your credit card has to be paid, or when your credit score is three months old, and that’s all nice; but the real must-have feature is Mint’s personal budget. Once Mint is linked to your credit and checking accounts, it automatically sorts your transaction data and presents you with easy-to-read (and hard-to-ignore—we spent how much at bars last month?) graphs of your spending in each category.
The whole service is totally free, supported by unobtrusive sponsored “advice” messages. With promises of a centralized online bill-pay feature on the way, you may not want to look any further. But we have, so here’s how Mint’s few worthy competitors stack up.
If Mint’s extensive options make your head spin—or you just can’t stand ads however they’re presented—or all you want is a no-frills budgeting tool, YNAB could be exactly what you’re looking for. The price may sound steep, but it buys you access to YNAB’s pooled financial tips and online workshops on top of a streamlined interface for putting them into practice and keeping your finances under control.
It sounds great, but in truth, YNAB’s budgeting software doesn’t have many exclusive features, and its $5 iPhone app is actually less handy than Mint’s. But who knows—it could be the same situation we go through when we buy an expensive new pair of running shoes or those jogging shorts (you know, the one’s with all those thermal, water-repellant doodads). Dropping $65 on software is the kick in the rear you need to actually stick to a budget.
Except for basic spreadsheets, CashBase is about as stripped down as budget apps get. The developers suggest that manually adding all your transactions to your budget is the most effective way to keep spending in check, and there could be some truth to that.
For those of us who’d like the software to save us time as well as money, they’ve integrated import & export features for CSV files (a common download format for online statements). Mint and its competitors store your data on secure, verified servers, but if providing a 3rd party with your online banking info makes you squeamish (and it wouldn’t bother your to download and import all your statements every time you want to update your budget), CashBase is your best bet.
As with Mint, Pageonce’s mission is to centralize your online finances. It does away with Mint’s popular budgeting feature, focusing instead on tracking account balances, investments, rewards accounts and bills. Pageonce is compatible with a huge array of accounts, down to regional insurance and utilities providers; but bill-pay—the app’s most useful feature—requires a paid subscription to Pageonce’s gold service. The app is otherwise free, supported by low-key ads, so as long as the lack of budgeting features doesn’t bother you Pageonce is a solid option for unifying online accounts.
Technically still in beta, Manilla is more likely to compete with Pageonce than with Mint. You may not be interested in using an app to budget your spending, but if you’d still like centralized reminders of upcoming bills, Manilla is for you. The app consolidates all the accounts you make payments on (from credit cards to utilities to Netflix to magazine subscriptions), then alerts you when bills are due and even links you directly to each service’s payments page. As tricky as navigating some online account sites can be (…looking at you Comcast), this can be a godsend.
Manilla may not support all your accounts yet, but there’s no telling how extensive the service will be by the time it’s out of beta. As of now, it has a lot of big names—including the aforementioned Netflix, plus Groupon and Living Social. The ease to setup is almost startling, so if you’re looking for an easy option to get your feet wet, Manilla’s a solid option—even in Beta.