Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tool Time

Note: Before I begin, please note that I have changed the email address for this blog. I'm finding that people are actually emailing me, and I'm not getting it for a few days because I don't often check the account that I had set up previously.

As I've begun to take my money more seriously and be as responsible as possible with it while still learning and managing to have a life, I've begun to use a number of tools to assist me in this process.

I've used Microsoft Money off and on for years. However since last August, I have been consistent in entering all my transactions into the software. I have the 2005 Deluxe version. I find it helpful for reporting and doing planning scenarios, however I still find myself frustrated with many aspects of it. Some of my accounts simply will not sync with the program. This is extremely annoying, as the whole point of it has been to be able to see all my accounts at a glance. My bank issued a statement saying that they are now compatible with Money and that you can get updates through the program, but I have yet to find them listed in Money's list of banking institutions.

Because of that, I use the on-line banking services of my bank very heavily. They also have bill-pay, so I've started really taking advantage of that feature. I've used their on-line banking since they introduced it, and it's still rather primitive in my opinion. However, it is nice to be able to look and see what transactions have cleared, and to be able send out payments.

The third item I've been using, and this is my most recent addition, is the website They have a service called the Oncenter Suite, which allows you to do the "snapshot" thing that I was hoping Money would do for me. You can enter your account information and passwords for your various accounts and get them all on one screen. It also has a billpay service and you can securely store account information for other things you use as well. You can even view multiple email accounts from one window. Seems to work great so far, you can even track rewards programs such as airlines and rental cars. Of course, my bank isn't listed in their very extension collection of financial institutions, so I'm still reliant on my on-line banking application.

I guess it would be nice to have one thing that does all the above. I want a register of my accounts, a snapshot of all of them, reporting features, bill pay, and all the other bells and whistles. Some of it has to do with my bank. Actually it is a Credit Union, so it isn't a national chain that is going to have the high end, feature laden, online banking service. So changing banks would be an idea, though it's not something I'm eager to do. I've been satisfied with this CU since I was barely out of my teens.

Another service that I've heard about, but haven't checked out yet is Billeo - seems somewhat similar to Yodlee, but claims to have more in the way of bill pay and gizmos. Here is a press release on their product.

If you've got financial tools that you rely heavily upon and find indispensable, feel free to leave a comment about them. I'd be interested to check them out.


Anonymous said...

I used MyYodlee before they made the change over to OnCenter. It was great and convenient to have everything together.

Then when the redesigned the site, they wiped out all of my accounts. I had to start all over, remembering all the usernames and passwords they had previously kept for me.

I complained by email, but they did not respond. So I stopped using them.

Melanie said...

Have you tried Quicken? I haven't used it, but in my search for a good finance software I've read a lot of decent reviews on it. Might be something to think about?

Anonymous said...

I used yodlee once but it was so involved I never got it set up completely and then I got emails saying they had deleted my accounts or passwords or something so I gave up. I thought I'd get Microsoft Money but they don't make it for mac. i read the reviews for quicken at amazon and they were horrendous. Someone recommended so I've been entering all my expenses using that program. It doesn't "sync" to your accounts and i wish it did. But I've got everything set up on automatic debit so I don't really need a bill-pay feature.

This is the first time I've ever written down everything I spend though and I have to say that it really makes you think before spending.

Brian said...

Many, many years ago I used Quicken (like version 2 I think it was). It did what I needed it to do, track my checking account. At the time banks didn't offer online services. shortly after microsoft came out with Money, I had switched to it and started using my banks online features. I worked great for awhile. Sometime around Money 2003-2004 the program started doing strange things and having problems syncing with my various accounts. I decided to upgrade to 2005 version and that started my frustrations. Each time I logged in it would duplicate all my transactions in my checking account! I also HATED the fact that I was almost forced to use passport to login to Money. So, out of frustration, last month I went and purchased Quicken 2005. I LOVE it. It PERFECTLY syncs with all of my accounts, and even takes advantage of my free BofA BillPay. After cleaning up my catagories, and setting up my bills, etc it works wonderfully for me. I only miss one thing from Money and thats the reports. Quickens reporting doesn't seem to be as flexable as Money's. I think I can make a spreadsheet for what I'm looking for though.

grant said...

I've used Microsoft Money (2003-04) and my banking institution was not listed in Microsoft's list. However, my community bank gave me the ability to download monthly data (or last 75 transactions data) in money type files. Once I downloaded it, Money automatically opened and all I had to do was verify that transactions weren't duplicated. So, your institution doesn't have to be in their list, you can get it from the bank in their on-line banking sections. At least that's how I had success. It's not completely automatic but it worked.

Todd D. said...

We do everything we want in Excel. We've fiddled with Money and Quicken, but the learning curve was too high.

Most of the time, we only want to know one of two things:

1. How is our cash flow for the month doing? Lee's put together a 1-page sheet that tracks predicted expenses, and actual expenses. The sheet works off the Dave Ramsey zero-based budgeting idea, wherein you examine at the beginning of the month where to direct any excess funds, so hopefully nothing is unexpected.

2. The Freedom Account tracker (Yep, read Mary Hunt's books too-we like her more). This sheet helps us plan our irregular expenses, including insurance, vacations, and Christmas. It's been a big help in making our household run smoothly.