smart spending

Can the Web solve your money woes?

If your own bank doesn't offer the features you want, alternatives exist. For instance, at Visa.com, Visa debit or credit card holders can check to see whether the companies they owe accept Visa and then link to the site Billeo.com to manage payments, explains Visa spokesman Ted Carr.

Consumers can also visit Billeo.com, says site founder Murali Subbarao, to pay bills by credit cards and receive instant payment confirmation, a feature many last-minute consumers like, since it can take a couple days for funds to transfer electronically from checking.

"I'm always overdrawn."

When you direct that bills be paid automatically, or if you're giving your debit card a workout, how do you know when funds are low?

At your bank's site you can probably set up e-mail alerts or text alerts when your balance reaches a certain level.

"I can't get out of debt."

At any one time, 400 to 500 "Racers" -- mostly women but some men -- are prodding each other with strategies to whittle down credit card balances, says Megan Paterson, who started the group, an offshoot of "Women in Red" that grew from columns on MSN Money by MP Dunleavey. At the end of last year, Racers have paid down some $10.3 million from when the community launched in late 2006. You can join through the message board at MSN MoneyCentral.

"I can't collect from friends."

Billmonk.com was founded after three friends traveled together and had to collect receipts of everything they spent and then try to divide costs equitably. Now, roommates and friends can log onto Billmonk.com to record who owes who for what, says site marketing director David Schwartz.

Not only does it eliminate awkward money discussions, says Schwartz, but the free Billmonk site calculates splits on bills. It also will link with Obopay.com, which charges a small fee to let friends settle up via transfers initiated from their mobile phone.

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