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I often think of my mom and her frugal ways. She was a budget goddess. In the days before the pc, lap top, tablet and smart phone phenomenon, she implemented a budget system that anyone could manage – anyone who was committed that is.

It was the envelope system. When the paycheck came home my mother actually took it to the bank in person (crazy huh). She deposited re-determined amounts in the savings and checking accounts and left with the rest of the cash. Mom would come home and break down the remainder of the cash into envelopes she kept in her top dresser drawer.

Technology has eclipsed the old envelope system of budgeting for most people. Still, you may want to consider the envelope system; it worked for our family. But then again, it does seem a bit outdated with all the cool technology we have right at our finger tips.

In the past I’ve written about online budget tools and personal finance software. My favorite by far is Mint.com. But today I want to cover a few online tools that are probably new to most people. Each of these options offer a sound way to manage your money online.

So take a look at these 5 online money management tools to help you track your spending.

The Birdy

If your goal is to just track cash purchases, this is as simple as it gets. If you have an aversion to spread sheets and tons of instructional info, this may be for you. TheBirdy.com is free and they promise to never spam you. All you need to do to set up an account is enter your email address, a password, and your time zone.

I signed up to see how user friendly it was. It sets up a dashboard for your account. You simply enter your cash purchases in a little box as indicated by their examples. Your expenses show up as a pie chart depending on how you enter the cash amounts and the category. The cool part – they send you daily emails asking you to enter your cash transaction amounts. That’s what I call a neat little tap on the shoulder reminding you to pay attention to what you are doing – helping you become more aware of all those smaller purchase amounts. You know – the ones that can really add up.


Mvelopes takes the traditional envelop budgeting method and combines it with innovative financial software to help folks manage their money. This tool not only helps you manage your monthly bills, but the standout feature is that it helps you plan ahead for future expenses. The idea is you don’t need to borrow money on your credit card to pay for things, you just need to plan. When using Mvelopes, it doesn’t mean you toss out your cards and just use cash, but you set aside specific dollar amounts in your online envelope just like you would if you were setting aside cash. Once you make a purchase, the dollar amount automatically comes out of the correct envelope so you have a visual of what you have spent and how much you have left. There is no cost to use Mvelopes.

You Need A Budget

YouNeedABudget is budgeting software that’s all about controlling cash flow. You enter your monthly income and expenses and it tells you how much to spend and save. It also provides a four step program to help you gain control of your finances.

Step 1 helps you understand how to assign each dollar a job (category). Hey, that’s like writing the category on the outside of the envelope!

Step 2 helps you budget for the big bills by setting aside money for the inevitable. You know – the insurance bill, the real estate taxes and those other dreaded BIG bills.

Step 3 explains how their software will actually automatically deduct from your next month’s budget if you spent too much. In other words, you will have to make do with a little less.

Step 4 helps you focus on getting out of the “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle, and it encourages you to start by saving enough to have one month in reserve. Then you can work toward having a bigger cushion in case of an emergency.

The cost of this program is $60 and includes free online classes. They offer a free 34-day trial if you want to give it a try.


This offers money-tracking tools and lots and lots of content. It can track all your accounts and expenses from your various banks and credit cards and allows you to see at a glance whether you have the ability to buy the item you are currently considering. Adaptu.com is free and has a free iPhone app. Your info is accessible by a 4-digit PIN and all information is encrypted and constantly monitored.


Here you can find information to help you “avoid financial missteps.” They offer advice on creating a budget, saving for retirement, getting out of debt and tracking your cash flow. They monitor your progress and provide guidance.

They are not affiliated with any financial institution, which allows them to offer unbiased recommendations. The cost for HelloWallet is $9.00 a month and includes a free iPhone app.

If you tried any of these budgeting options, tell us what you think of them.

Article comments

Jeff Crews says:

Mvelopes sounds very interesting to me. I have always liked the idea of having cash in separate envelopes and knowing when things are running low. Have you tried any of these?

Rob Berger says:

Jeff, I’ve tried them all! There are pros and cons of course. I like Mint.com because it’s free and has a lot of features. YNAB is also excellent, and is what I’m currently using for my budget.

Jeff Crews says:

Yea. I have many friends that use Mint.com and seem to like it. I might need to look at incorporating it.

Hello Rob,

I have been using Microsoft Money for 5 years, Quicken for another 5 years and Mint since last June. Since Intuit purchased Mint in 2010 it’s only a matter of time until we will see a full integration with Turbo Tax and you will be able to “Simple Accounting For Beginners”!

Unless you have all your accounts with one financial institutions nothing beats Mint because it’s simple, online and on the go (mobile). The “free” feature needs to be explained since it will cost you time to understand and manage your budget. I already consolidated all my credit cards to one MBNA Smart Cash Card suggested by Mint and migrated all my accounts to ING Direct to save $200 banking fees every year. Sweet!

Great blog post by the way!

Montreal, Canada

Justin H. says:

I’ve used Mint.com, and they are having some real technical issues that are turning a lot of people off, myself included. The two biggest ones are duplicating accounts (meaning you add it once, then the next time you log in, there are 2 or more of the same account) and incompatibility with certain banks’ web pages. There are issues on there that have been discussed for over a year in the community forums, and the little to no response by Mint/Intuit employees is ridiculous and disheartening, especially to someone who was in the customer service industry for a while. When you contact via e-mail their customer service, their 24-48 hour window turns into 72-96 hours, and it’s a simple form e-mail based on your problem (with an answer you’ve probably found in the forum already) or a “We’re sorry you have this problem. We’re working on it.” Which is what they’ve said in the forum, again, for over a year now.

I use Adaptu, and while the interface isn’t as nice (yet) as Mint, it works with my banks and doesn’t duplicate my accounts. And the support forum has a lot of Adaptu employee interaction. Good enough for me.

FX Agent says:

The best way to select online tracking tool of choice. Every tool will have a slightly different feature set, but all really need to be able to do is log the payments you make.