Personal finances are like losing weight. You don’t get to cheat on the basics. As just as any weight control program tells you to weigh yourself every day, you have to keep track of your cash.

Think about what you spend in a week … now recalculate honestly and include everything. Where does your money go? Shoppers can’t account for an average $21 spent each week, according to a recent survey by Visa. That’s $1,092 per year in mystery purchases. The bad news: $21 is probably low.

A few years ago one of our readers enthusiastically embraced QuickBooks (, faithfully recording and tracing almost 98 percent of  the money that went through his hands. There were plenty of surprises, starting with his Starbucks expenditures.

As you can see from the graph at the bottom, controlling spending has more to do with the state of your finances than what you make.

The world has moved on, and the new Web-based financial planning tools are much easier to use.

Canadian and U.S. readers should take a look at Wesabe is well-organized community and personal finance website with U.S and Canadian functionality and mobile iPhone capability. It provides easy uploading of transactions to its secure site. You get tips from other users, which can help you figure out where you’e spending your money and how to change things around. You can set goals, such as paying off a credit card or saving money.

It doesn’t track a million different things like Quicken does, butlets you get an overview of your personal financial situation.

Wesabe receives reviews which can only be described as extraordinarily good.  From The Economist, for example, “Behind the scenes the service is sifting through its members’ anonymised data to find patterns and to offer recommendations for future transactions based, for instance, on how much a particular customer regularly spends in a supermarket.”

WisdomFishing highly recommends , a free personal financial management site and a real eye-opener. Mint is free, easy to navigate, secure, has email or SMS cell alerts for unusual account activity, when a bill is due or an account has a low balance. It’s also fun to use.

When you enrol and set up for your own use, account transactions are downloaded with and expense categories automatically assigned. Mint does not directly access accounts. After setting up your accounts, Mint will quickly update transactions. After an accounts update, the overview page provides account balances, alerts for account activity,  financial reminders and a budget bar graph that shows how much more you have to spend for the month — or how much you have overspent.

There are good budgeting tools and great reporting tools that provide reports on spending, income, debt and other things with a bar or pie chart to represent the data with one-click access to previous months’ reports and to year-over-year comparisons. There is investment advice and ideas for completing tasks to make you financially secure.

And there are ways to save, including money-saving offers. These are not presented as  ads, but they’re tailored to your individual financial picture and do not pop up or otherwise get in the way while using to manage money. There are also tracking tools for real estate, vehicles, and investments, which means you can get a comprehensive view of your net worth and financial circumstances by using

The site says it has more than six million users. It uses bank-level data security verified by Verisign and TrustE. You are anonymous on; you don’t share your name, address, social security (or social insurance) number or account numbers. You can save money — but you can’t transfer money — using In fact, with’s automatic email and SMS alerts, you can increase your online security by learning of — and acting on — any suspicious activity in any of your accounts more quickly.’s interface is terrific and the dashboard — called the Overview — is also very good, providing you a one-page summary of every element of your financial picture, updated every evening (or when you do so manually). A graph illustrates how your spending compares with U.S. averages — a feature unique to — and isolates all transactions related to a specific payee.

It’s easy to see how Mint helps you keep track of money, but the company is looking to take it even further by giving you tasks and suggestions for improving your financial health. The new Financial Fitness feature  is designed like a game where you accrue points for completing various financial tasks. It defines five personal finance principles and specifies the steps you should take on a weekly, monthly and annual basis to put them into action. also explains the importance of each task and the best way to complete it successfully. And it updates all your account information automatically so you always have the most current information available. calculates your average spending in any category, and can turn it into a budget with one click. Compare your spending year-to-year or month-to-month and rollover extra cash each month. Whatever your style, makes it easy to create a budget that works for you.

We could go on but you get the point. We should all be smart about money not controlled by it. These sites will make you more aware and give you some suggestions for how to take control of your finances – and maybe of your life – though that will be a  bigger challenge.