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Business - Written by on Thursday, September 18, 2008 15:08 - 0 Comments

Wesabe: The Frugality of Crowds

If you’re anything like me, you tend to enjoy things that may be a little beyond your budget. And if you’re really like me, you tend to enjoy them far more often than you should. But I’m going to avoid any discussions of my own indulgence, but use them as a segue to mention Wesabe. It’s an open source community that tracks your spending habits and shares them with the group. If prediction markets are for harnessing the “Wisdom of Crowds”, this truly does try to capture the “Frugality of Crowds”.

Here’s how it works: you sign up for a new account on their website and select the method you wish to use to upload your transaction information. There are a few to choose from, ranging from a handy Firefox extension to a manual uploader application. After that, you select your bank, point it to your financial statements, and let Wesabe to the rest. Wesabe then creates charts and transaction lists for your earnings and spending. I found out that my afternoon Starbucks habit averages only $2.05, which isn’t bad considering a significant number of people are closer to $5.

Each of your transactions are tag-able, and each of the places you spent at are reviewable. Most of the popular places (like Starbucks and Chipotle) have a huge number of useful user comments. Some range from how to maximize Peet’s Coffee’s discount when you buy beans to tips on saving money on a healthy lunch instead of inhaling that double cheeseburger. The user groups are also interesting, as you can find out about smarter ways to shop for car insurance to Household Budgeting 101.

The neat open source aspect of Wesabe is that it has a robust API which allows Wesabe enthusiasts the flexibility to develop whatever their cost-conscious minds can dream up. Wesabe has an articulate stance on how having better information about your spending habits is the first step toward reining them in. There are widgets for Vista, OS X, and even your iPhone.

Looks like those GI Joe cartoons from the 1980′s were right! Seems like knowing is half the battle. Keeping your credit card in your wallet is now the tougher other half.



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