Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: How I use Wesabe to keep track of my money

One of the skills I’m trying to develop for my own clean installing is the ability to control how well money enters and leaves my pocket. This is of course a not so easy task - even more if you have almost zero background on financial education. Many would say relationship with money is somehow like sex: you end up learning about it almost on your own.

However, nearly every personal finances program will instruct you on a task that is fundamental for success in money managing, yet is perhaps the most difficult both on a practical and motivational level: keeping a spending log.

That’s where Wesabe comes in, at least for the practical side of this task. This free online tool helps you with the chore of keeping track of your income and expenses, allowing you to check at a glance how are you spending your so hard earned money. I’ve been using it for two months now and can say it is very useful to uncover some truths about your personal financial life.

A snapshot of your money

When you log into your account, a main dashboard shows you several things. The line and pie graphs are the most prominent, and show you the relationship between income and expenses, and the category tags that are taking the heavier hits. Personally I find this a great way to get into your senses every time you ask yourself where it all went.

In order to follow your spending trends, you must create accounts. These can be linked to your bank reports – providing Wesabe supports the bank. Since I have all my money in Venezuelan banks that don't provide any means to link to external applications, I can’t fully enjoy the benefits of it. Fortunately Wesabe has the option of creating a cash account, and this approach fits perfectly with the financial program I’m currently trying.

Keeping track and keeping in line

Adding transactions is a relatively easy task. You provide a date, a merchant name an amount, and one or more tags to categorize it. You can see these transactions on a list, but there is one drawback here: navigating between transactions limits to two back-and-forward links. Granted, you can search your transactions, but the only way to look at tag totals is by clicking on Spending Trends, which isn’t always an intuitive way.

You can add spending targets to any tag you choose, which is another way to call budgets. However, as I’ve learned, budgets don’t always work at your advantage, so I’m not setting any spending target, but you could find them useful if you think so.

Another feature you could find nice is its ability to add transactions via Twitter. I’ve used it very few times, and find the syntax a little awkward, but can be of great help if you don’t want to spend a full afternoon transferring your spending from your paper notebook to the website just because your ISP failed for two days in a row.

Speaking of Twitter, Wesabe makes an emphasis on its social features. Basically you get access to groups of members around some financial topic – a forum, in essence. I think it’s nice to read people who have some common goals with you, but I really don’t hang there too much.


I think Wesabe has a lot to offer just because it is very basic and straight in its services, and it has worked for me. I remember trying to set an Excel worksheet to make all these things, and got bored after half an hour. Of course there are another free online tools for these tasks, but if you want a direct approach to keeping track of you money, Wesabe can handle the task.


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