Rudder gives direction to your finances

How confident would you feel in your finances if you could click one button and see what your bank statement would look like for the next month taking into account all of your bills paychecks and credit card payments? It sounds pretty good, almost too good; but that's exactly what you can do with

Rudder is a new financial tool that focuses on what is going to happen to your money rather than analyzing what you have done with it in the past. This pro-active look at your finances lets you know what you can do with your money to affect your financial situation right now. Best of all, it's one of the lowest maintenance personal finance tools I've ever used; you don't even have to log in to rudder, they will email you a snapshot of your dashboard every morning.

If that's too often, you can choose to get the emails on whichever days you want. Choosing your email frequency is just the beginning of the Rudder customization options. While there are plenty of tools, or widgets as they are known in Rudder, you can choose which ones make sense for you. By adding or removing widgets from your dashboard you'll also change what your daily email update looks like, so if you only care about the "Bills" and "What's Left" widgets you won't be bothered by the "Spend Meter" or any other feature that Rudder rolls out in the future.

Enough with the introductions, let's check Rudder out!

Rudder Bills Widget

Rudder couldn't do such an uncanny job of projecting your financial future without knowing where your money goes so the Bills section of Rudder is key to its success. There are two areas for Bill information in Rudder; one for entering various bills and the other for getting a quick glance at what bills have been paid and which ones are still due this month.

When you link up your account Rudder will identify many of your bills but for smaller and local companies you may have to enter the bill on your own. You can also enter one time bills in Rudder which are then automatically calculated into your "What's Left" widget so you won't be surprised at the end of the month by an unexpected hospital visit. Even better, you can link your credit card payment to the bills section so it is even calculated into your future projections. If you pay bills on your credit card Rudder will factor the future charge into the next billing cycle of your credit card!

Rudder's "What's Left" widget is the be all end all of your finances. This simple graph makes it almost impossible to not know how you stand financially in a matter of seconds. Depending on how you're doing over the next 30 days, your graph will either be rocketing towards the sky or perhaps look like a heart patient who has flat-lined. From here you can click for the details and find out what's dragging you down and immediately click to edit the amount of the offending category to see how it impacts your finances. This is the best example of how Rudder differentiates itself from the other competitors in the personal finance arena. With Mint and Wesabe you wouldn't have seen this problem until it was too late to do adjust your spending for this month. Maybe this is why 82% of Rudder users have said it helps them better manage their finances and avoid overdraft fees.

The "Spend Meter" is another example of how Rudder is a pro-active tool; this widget shows you how much money you have left for discretionary purchases. This tool helps keep track of the things you buy that aren't bills; like a lunch out, an iTunes purchase or a new video game. You can think of it as a traffic light for your discretionary spending: if you're start to use too much of your discretionary income it will turn red and alert you in your morning email so that you can adjust your habits.

For all the things Rudder has to offer there are still plenty more tools on the way. In the next few weeks you should be able to manually upload transactions which will be great news for people like me whose bank isn't one of the 4,000 they already support. The Rudder iPhone app has been certified and will be hitting the iTunes App store in the next few weeks as well. Additionally users will soon be able to create savings goals which will help users plan for big purchases and include the monthly savings goals in the What's Left calculations. On top of these new additions expect to see a budgeting widget added to the service and many other cool tools in the coming months.

Overall, Rudder is a top notch service and has quickly filled a big hole in the personal finance arena. The service's willingness to listen to users' needs and suggestions will help it grow in the coming months. Other than the forward-looking aspect of Rudder, it does have one other thing differentiating it from Wesabe, Mint and Quicken in that while basic memberships are free, if you wish to store more than 200 transactions you will need to purchase more space for between $2.99 and $8.99. The good news is that the provided 200 transactions will give you time to try the service out and may be enough for many users to get by with indefinitely.

If you've always wanted to know what your bank account would look like after you paid all of your bills but didn't want to figure out what bills have and haven't been paid then Rudder is the tool for you!
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