There are numerous ways to manage your money, Wesabe, Mint, just to mention a few but I have always found these to be a bit limiting. Mint for example requires your bank account information which is a major drawback.
I always speak up against all this privacy obsession, but while I don’t care if someone gets to my personal thoughts, I do care if they get to my money. There is a heated debate about Mint’s safety and policies and even if you don’t mind that part, if you have bank accounts outside the US, Mint won’t work anyway.
Enter ClearCheckbook, stage right, one of the best money management apps I’ve seen in a while that won’t require you to surrender all your personal info. Manage multiple accounts, savings, credit cards, cash, Paypal and so on easily, with overviews, statistics and summaries readily available. Of course the negative side of the app is that you need to do everything manually. You don’t have to share your info, but this means the app doesn’t pull anything from your bank account either. For me this is a huge positive side to things because it gives me much more flexibility. Let me show you a bit more about this extremely helpful application.
I needed a simple but effective app to tighten my grip on my expenses and ClearCheckbook impressed me right from the start. With the simple few step process you will set up your accounts in no time, designating an initial sum for each. Since you are not tied to your bank accounts you can create “fictional” accounts for anything you wish. If you like to put $20 in a jar each month you can create an account named “jar” and designate an initial sum. You will be able to add transactions in the same way. While this seems like a weird use of the application it is very life-like, you could even use it to track a loan you gave to someone. To add an initial fund to a credit card account you will need to either withdraw or deposit that amount while all other accounts have an “initial amount” option. There are a few reasons why this is technically more accurate, but I see no reason why it is complicated. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty easy to set up stuff. You can even modify the initial sum at any time if you want to reset your account, or balance it.
Of course setting up is all nice and easy, but the real task is to track your daily expenses right? I’ve only been using ClearCheckbook for a week, but since I have been moving I used it heavily. It manages to really help you, and not bog you down with micromanagement. Just click on add an entry, choose account, amount, date, category and name. Adding an item takes about 10 seconds for me, even if I add a new category and spend some time on the transaction name, so you won’t spend minutes and hours pushing sums about.
The Summary screen is also great for daily use, showing a list of recent transactions, which can be filtered by certain categories. You can also view your account balances and the total, a great place to get some at a glance info about how you stand financially.
The summary screen also enables quick editing of items (just click and go, nice inline editing implemented), you can modify every aspect, plus you get the option to jive an entry. Jiving basically means checking that the amount matches your bank statement. Since you aren’t pulling data from your account but editing manually, this is a nice function to have. However if you have a lot of transactions, I doubt you want to spend 3 hours each month to go through all your entries. If you find a discrepancy between your ClearCheckbook and your real account, just add correction transactions for the relevant amount.
Actually reports are not that important to me, but they are a cool way to visualize your account and see when your earnings are going up or down in general. You can see total spending compared to withdrawals, then by account, you can even take a look at spending by category. My current standing there is Food – 90%, Hygiene – 10%. Is that something I should hide? As you use it more and more these statistics become more and more relevant and useful, if you have 2-3 transactions daily you should have some usable data within a month.
That’s about it for reports, which is enough for me, but what is a real help is the search option which let’s you find any transaction, at any time, for any amount. Searches are quick and productive, you’ll be able to find that “lost” transaction in seconds.
What surprised me are the amount of tools ClearCheckbook offers. CheckBot for example is a way to interact with your account using different platforms, like AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Gtalk, or even your mobile phone, which can be a great asset if you’re on the run.
You can also set up reminders and recurring transactions. For people like me this is a blessing, I am not the best in keeping track of my monthly bills and so on. Now I can just input them and off I go, worry free. Spending limits can provide the same auto-regulators that some people need, and while they don’t actually stop you from spending, they might make you sit down and think about it.
There are some other nice features like importing, a sort of notepad, refreshing accounts and so on, plus some basic features like managing categories and accounts of course.
Is ClearCheckbook right for me?
Well, this is up for you to decide. Give it a go and share your experiences, thoughts, rival products in the comments. For me this is the perfect solution since I can add any account from the cash in my hand to the money in my Paypal account to my allocated Poker funds.
There are no privacy concerns or at least ones that could compromise your real account and although you have to manually add stuff, this can be done pretty quickly and easily. I think I like this much more that other apps out there, but let us know what you think!