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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Clearcheckbook.com – Further thoughts

Its been a while since my last post in which I briefly discussed Clearcheckbook.com as an online alternative to software such as Quicken and Microsoft Money. During this time I have been able to look at the software in a bit more detail. There seem to be a number of similar services cropping up, the most notable Mint in the USA, while here in the UK Lovemoney is probably the main player following the collapse of Kublax.  What makes Clearcheckbook different is it doesn’t require you to supply your online banking logins in order to use the service, in fact you don’t even need to provide the name of your banks.

While services such as Lovemoney are quick to setup (you only need to provide your logins and transactions are downloaded automatically), Clearcheckbook takes a bit more effort, though once setup it is very straight forward and quick to update.  With Clearcheckbook you have to enter all transactions manually rather than have them automatically imported.  While this is more time consuming, the added security of not having to hand over your banking login details to a 3rd party will make this more than acceptable to many.  For regular payments, recurring transactions can be set up to save time in the future.

As I previously mentioned, there are a lack of default categories initially available, but it is simple enough to create your own, making it more effective to track spending and create a more detailed budget.  One feature I particularly like is the rollover budget.  Here you set a monthly spend, but if you don’t use it all up, the remainder rolls over to the next month.  I find this especially useful for petrol which costs me about £50 a month, though depending on when the tank gets low, some months will see me spend much more and others much less.

An unusual part of the software is “Jive” which is the term it uses for when transactions are reconciled.  While the terminology is a bit quirky, it can prove useful for planning ahead.  I post all regular transactions at the start of the month and then “Jive” them on the date they actually occur.  This way I can see current account balances and also future account balances allow better budgeting or knowing if I will have any spare cash at the end of the month.

The dashboard layout can be customised similar to iGoogle to give you all the key information on one screen in an easy to read format and even the more complex tasks are only a couple of clicks away.  Mobile apps mean you can even update or check your accounts while you are out and about.

There is a premium version available for a small monthly fee which offers features such as multiple users, custom reports and other tools that allow for more detailed analysis though the free version will more than likely meet most peoples requirements.

If you have read my previous posts on personal finance software you will be aware that I currently use AceMoney.  Overall, AceMoney is the more complete package and Clearcheckbook does have a few short-comings, though nothing major, to the point in fact that I am considering moving away from AceMoney and using Clearcheckbook to manage my personal finance.  At least then when my laptop decides it has had enough, I don’t need to worry about software compatibility as I have in the past (see previous posts as to why I had to ditch Quicken), just as long as it has a browser.

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