These Free Sites Help You Manage Your Money

Wesabe

Wesabe is a personal financial management site that features a strong community-based aspect, much like Geezeo. But don't be fooled into thinking that Wesabe's social-networking feature makes it a one-trick pony. Wesabe also offers some innovative and powerful features for keeping track of your finances -- although it comes with a few caveats.

Despite the fact that the site has been around for over two years, it shows some signs of growing pains. For instance, Wesabe can currently track only your bank accounts and credit cards. If you want to track investments, you'll have to request access to this beta feature from Wesabe Labs; tracking loans and mortgages are earmarked for some point in Wesabe's future.

I ran into a momentary showstopping bug when Wesabe mysteriously lost the ability to update my checking account and credit card transactions. I was, however, able to manually upload my account information via an OFX file upload -- only Wesabe and Geezeo support OFX uploads.

Eventually, I fixed the problem by deleting my bank log-in credentials and then re-entering them. Thankfully, this did not impact any of the transaction information that had already been downloaded for my accounts.

Wesabe features four tabbed pages: Accounts, Tips, Goals and Groups. Like Mint, Wesabe puts virtually all of your relevant financial information on the page you first land on after you log in; for Wesabe, this is the Accounts page. Despite having a lot of information in one place, it doesn't feel crowded or overwhelming.

Below the account information is a Spending Targets chart for the current month. Spending Targets is Wesabe's version of a monthly budget. You manually add targets for each of your transaction categories, which Wesabe refers to as "tags." For each tag you want to track, you simply enter what you want your monthly spending limit to be.

Under the Spending Targets is a Spending vs. Earnings chart, which displays your spending in blue and earnings in green. Below that is yet another set of pie charts, which breaks out Spending and Earnings into separate charts, so you can see which tags your money is going to and where your earnings are coming from.

At the bottom of the page is an Add a chart button. This allows you to add custom charts; however, in order to do so, you need to enter some code that corresponds to Wesabe's "valid API method." Some examples are provided, and it's actually not that difficult to figure out -- I was able to create a custom chart that displayed my tagged grocery expenses from the beginning of the year onward. The Accounts page also includes links that take you to an in-depth graphical representation of your Spending Summary and your Earnings Summary.

Each of your accounts is listed on the Accounts page; clicking an account name takes you to that account's transactions. It is here that you enter the tags for each of your transactions in order to categorize them. The tags are entirely text-based, and you can enter virtually any text you like. It took me a little while to figure out, however, that multiword tags needed to be put in quotes; otherwise, Wesabe interpreted each word as a unique tag. It also took a while before I could figure out how to split transactions across multiple tags. I had to tag nearly every transaction -- consequently, it took me longer to set up Wesabe than any of the other sites.

The Tips page allows you to get a sense of how your fellow Wesabe users utilize particular merchants or tags. For instance, I used "entertainment" as a search term, which scraped data from other Wesabe users' tagged transactions. The resulting screen displayed the most-common "entertainment" merchants (which happened to be Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and Blockbuster), and the average amount users spent with these merchants, as well as how often they visited and what percentage of them recommends the merchant. Below that are related advice nuggets provided by other Wesabe users.

The Goals page provides a different view and way to edit your Spending Targets, and it also allows you to create a specific goal and link it to your tags. Your goals are public and linked to other Wesabe users who have the same goals. The Groups page is essentially a set of community forums where users can trade tips and advice -- there was a healthy amount of recent activity in the Wesabe groups.

As with Geezeo, Wesabe never automatically logged me out after a period of inactivity. Wesabe also doesn't offer e-mail or SMS text alerts, such as for low account balances or bill reminders. Wesabe does, however, have an iPhone-specific version of the site as well a more generic mobile version that can be accessed from mobile phones with Web browsers.

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