New online tools provide personal finance assistance

01/31/2014 8:00 AM

01/30/2014 3:52 PM

Valentine’s Day, a high-dollar holiday, is just around the corner. Prom, the first college tuition payments and a summer vacation aren’t that far off.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the family — teenagers included — could tighten up the finances, sock a little extra money away and create a budget rather than operating under an open wallet policy?

Mint.com, Manilla.com and LearnVest

are among the most highly rated money management websites. But some new online tools have recently been introduced to help you and your high school or college kids make better decisions about budgeting, spending, saving and paying bills on time.

One of the newest products is called

MoneyStream

, which was designed by a group of financial and technology experts who left Intuit several years ago to create their own product.

Launched late last year, MoneyStream’s goal is to help busy families control their money.

“Our technology is designed to show you where your money is, what’s coming in, what’s going out and when,” said Christy Ross, MoneyStream’s chief marketing officer.

Here’s how it works: You provide MoneyStream with your bank account information and the service automatically gathers and organizes your bills, as well as what you have coming in on your paycheck and other income.

All the information is then plotted on a calendar, and users are alerted by email or text messages when a bill needs to be paid. In other words, no more excuses for not writing the monthly check for day care or for incurring late fees on the cable TV bill.

But it’s more than just a bill-paying website. There’s also a feature that monitors your monthly cash flow and alerts you if your spending is getting out of hand.

MoneyStream offers three services — a basic, free, mostly do-it-yourself plan that should appeal to teens and young adults; a premium plan for $9.95; and a super plan with more electronic banking bells and whistles for $19.95 a month. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at first or your payment records don’t quite square up, MoneyStream will contact you to go over any problems — a nice customer service touch.

“This is not a service you have to babysit,” said Ross. “We do the babysitting for you.”

Next up for MoneyStream is a mobile app this spring.

MoneyStream is not the only new personal finance program. A Silicon Valley startup called

Finovera

recently launched a free online service that links your bills and bank and investment statements into one secure file. Finovera collects a 12-month history of bills and statements, automatically downloads new ones as they post and alerts you when the payment is due.

Finovera also offers a digital service that allows you to store important documents, such as insurance policies and extended warranties on gaming systems.

Finally, Manilla.com has added a free bill-sharing feature that allows families to link multiple banking accounts, making it easier for Mom and Dad to monitor their kids’ spending and go over financial issues.

So the next time your college student sends a “Mom, I need more money” request, first see where all their money has gone.

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