Money is dead: Five alternative programs to keep track of your cash

With the news that Microsoft is to stop selling Money, we've shelled out five alternative programs to keep track of your finances at home and on the go

Microsoft has discontinued Money. No, Gates' mates haven't abandoned the concept altogether, which is unsurprising considering the company has, y'know, most of it. But the boys at Redmond have decided to stop selling personal-finance program Microsoft Money.

Money will no longer be available to buy after the end of June, and will only be supported up to January 2011. You'll still be able to use it on your PC after that, but will lose the crucial function of getting automated data feeds from your bank , credit card shylocks, and other chisellers, sorry, financial service providers.

So what's the alternative to Money? Stealing? Bartering? Oh we can't be bothered keeping that gag going. If you currently use Money, or like the idea of software to organise your money, here's some of the other options, both online and on your desktop. You may have heard of Mint and Quicken, but as they don't work for anyone whose native currency is Her Majesty's English Pounds we'll get to them in a jiffy.

Unless noted, all these programs are free and support the major UK banks and finance providers. Each program or Web service allows you to link accounts and track transactions and budgets to keep you on top of your finance, with secure encryption to keep your data safe. Right, let's put our mouth where our Money was.

Wesabe is an online service that uploads information from your bank. Unlike Mint and Quicken, Wesabe supports -- in theory -- any financial institution, as long as it offers account information export. You can even suggest any it's missed. All the major UK banks are already listed, however.

Automatic syncing only works with selected banks. You can manually upload your account information or, once you've done this the first time, a Firefox extension can automatically sync for you in future. You can even create an account for the cash you have in your wallet, if you want to micro-manage your finances down to the shrapnel. You can tag transactions, and view those tags in a list or a cloud, as well as setting goals.

Wesabe also has a community element, allowing Wesabeans to anonymously share ideas and advice or join groups. Suggested alternative retailers -- which are based on community feedback and not paid placements -- can be displayed alongside transactions, and a Cutback tool spots recurring fees and suggests how much you'd save if you gave up that particular treat. There's a Vista gadget and Apple Dashboard widget, and mobile and iPhone sites that allows you to keep track of cash transactions.

A Labs section of the site currently features an option to track investment plans and also enter upcoming transactions, while bill-paying features are reportedly on the way. A 'freemium' model is also likely to arrive soon, so now could well be the time to get in there and try it out for free.

Yodlee is the back-end for Mint, which doesn't work here in dear old Blighty. Yodlee's MoneyCenter application does, however, linking directly with your Internet banking and pulling data in every night. You do have to give up your banking details, but all the major UK banks are supported, and when your accounts are linked you'll be able to view reports on your spending.

Transactions are linked in categories. Features include a budget planner, with alerts when you overspend by email and text message, as well as notifications about your bills, payments, balances and transactions. You can see your finances in a calendar and, if your self-esteem can take it, you can also view a graph of your net worth.

Yodlee also allows you to pay bills, set up reminders and save payees for future reference.

BankTree is a home-grown desktop program from right here in the U of K. It pulls in data from your banks, includes budgets and reports, and generally does everything we're looking for. Makes you proud to be British .

Being desktop-based, there's no online or mobile support. Still, you do have the peace of mind of having all your data secure in one place.

The catch? The personal version will set you back £26. Stick an affiliate link on your Web site, however, and you can offset that cost to the tune of £5 per sale. Or you could just eat a few less pies, the choice is yours.

Expensr doesn't pull in your data from your bank, but it does allow you to enter your transactions manually via the Web, a mobile site and a Facebook app. Expensr is owned by the people behind moneyStrands, but that's US-only.

Expensr is aimed at the young adult, with social networking features to compare your spending with other people in similar demographics. Because that's what the kids are into, innit.

While that initially sounds about as much fun as film night round at Jacqui Smith's gaff, it does throw up some interesting general comparisons. For example, married people spend 13 per cent more per month on gifts than singletons.

If you're not a resident of this green and pleasant land, you're missing out on tube strikes and Big Brother and Crunchies, but you do at least get to use these services.

Mint

Mint is one of the most popular finance online finance sites because it's so easy to set up and use... if you're a yank. It pulls in information from your banks, cards and investment accounts automatically, and spits out spending graphs and goals, suggesting cheaper alternatives to your existing credit cards. It even has an iPhone app. Sadly, it's not available to UK users.

Quicken

Quicken is another free, automatic data-getting program, with Web and desktop versions and an iPhone app.

mvelopes

mvelopes is based around the real-world principal of bunging cash in envelopes. Not the system beloved of football managers, but the budgeting system of dividing your cash into a separate envelope for each week of the month. It's not free, however, with a quarterly subscription costing $40 and a two-year plan taking $190 out of your envelopes.

Buxfer

Buxfer's cool headline feature is the option to login with existing Google, Yahoo or Facebook login details. It even works with Google Gears, effectively making it an alternative to both online and desktop money programs. The upshot is your data is synced to the cloud but your actual banking logins are never given to Buxfer.

As well as the usual transactions, budgets and reports, Buxfer offers group-budgeting options. You can divide and track expenses between multiple users. Transactions can be entered by email and SMS. It also has an excellent range of cross-platform options, with mobile access, an iPhone app, iGoogle and NetVibes gadgets, and even a Facebook app. The Firebux Firefox extension can automatically sync your data.

Although these features are all free, there is a limit to how many accounts, reminders and budgets you can set up for free. Still, subscriptions are a measly $1.80 or £2.80 per month.

When it comes to downloading your financial history from your bank's Internet banking site, look for a download or export option. Possible file types include QIF, OFX and HBCI. Contact your financial institution for more information -- it might be easier if you mention Money, Quicken or Mint so your bankers know what you're on about.

If you're interested in harnessing your computer to organise your finances -- or your life -- it's always worth keeping an eye on the excellent productivity blog lifehacker, while the financially savvy can always make time for Martin Lewis' indispensable money-saving tips.

It's a shame we Brits miss out on so many services, but there's still a wealth of options to manage your wealth. Wesabe has a Firefox extension and mobile access, but we reckon Yodlee MoneyCenter edges it with bill-payment support.

Have you used any of these services? Let us know your experiences, or any other useful apps and money programs, whether desktop, online or mobile. Also, can you lend us a fiver?

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Software
About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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