Personal Finance Software Comes of Age, And Goes Free
When personal computers came on the market in the 70's as something you could use at home for the family, personal finance software was one of the most important things the marketing people thought the general population could use it for.
Over the years, tools like Quicken and Microsoft Money became almost a standard purchase along with every PC sold.
The only problem has been that this personal software had to be chained to your own computer. If you wanted to keep account of credit card purchases, you just had to wait for your card statements and weeks later, key everything into your computer manually.
Of course, today you no longer have to pay for great finance software. Tools like Mint, Wesabe and MoneyStrands are free and they can help you keep abreast of all your finances and checkbook balancing.
Unlike tethered personal finance software, Mint, which first saw the light of day in late 2007, can easily connect to almost every bank and credit card company in the land from day one. It is no wonder then that Mint seems to be a product designed for today, a Web 2.0 world where everything is interactive.
Give Mint access to your bank and credit cards and it will download your expense information and automatically list all the information on your account. Mint is signing up more than 100,000 new users every month. It even does your 401(k) calculations for you.
Of course, the desktop majors quickly began to see the merits of the Internet model. Intuit, the market leader and owner of Quicken, put in an offer to acquire Mint and did it too late.
Perhaps the best compliment Mint could have had was to see Intuit close down Quicken, to have Mint take its place. Microsoft announced that it was withdrawing from the market altogether. They plan to release a free tool like Mint, soon.
Mint is not the only free finance software to market of course. It just seems that way, because Mint is so successful. They have inspired lots of new entries in the market. But they all have their own up and downsides. Wesabe, for example, has a harder time connecting with your bank and credit cards.
MoneyStrands helps you not just balance your checkbook, but budget for it. The good news is that these services are no longer just for America. They've been designed for everyone. Of course, for an idea with the kind of runaway popularity that Mint has enjoyed, the next step forward would understandably be on the mobile phone.
True enough, Mint has an iPhone app out, and runs a mobile optimized website. If you have a troubled credit card, whose payment date is just getting closer, these programs will all send you a mobile phone alert.
The banks see it as a great way to promote financial responsibility. And they all have their own apps too. They have apps to deal with bill payments for example. The future certainly seems exciting for personal finance software.