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Online Budgeting Tools – Expensr

May 3, 2008 Leave a comment

Dave Ramsey has said many times that if you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.  Living on a budget is one of the most foundational and important things you can do to establish good financial footing.  The hard part is finding the right tool for the job.  Some people use a basic spreadsheet, some like to wrestle with Microsoft Money or Quicken, and the ludite holdouts like to use a pencil and paper.  

If none of those three options sound appealing, you may consider using an online tool.

I’ve used two online budgeting tools: Expensr.com and myTotalMoneyMakeover.com. I’ve enjoyed using both, and wanted to point out some of the positives of each tool. The first one I’ll look at, Expensr, is a free tool, while myTMMO requires a paid subscription. I’ll look at the latter in my next post.

I’ve played around with Expensr a little bit over the past couple of weeks and it has proved to be simple and quick with a number of different ways to get the 30,000 foot view of your budget.  It’s free to use, and is under the category of “cheap and simple.”  

Expensr avoids offering too many options, and it tells you the most important things:  how much money you have spent and in what categories.  

After signing in, you are taken to your “home” page, where you see some information which helps you see how your spending compares to other people in your same age or situation. When you click on the Accounts tab, you are presented with what boils down to a checking register.  This is where you can enter new transactions or import from your bank (my method of choice).

The Analysis tab provides a pie chart which gives a visual representation of your spending.  Instead of having to click on options and build your own chart, Expensr gives you one instantly.  This is a quick and easy way to get a glance at how your spending is going. 

There are a couple of features I would wish for in Expensr.  I would like to assign two different categories to one transaction.  Sometimes we withdraw cash to use in a couple different ways, but in Expensr you can only list that withdrawal as one category.

Another missing feature is the ability to search for transactions by name.  You can click on a category to narrow down the view to transactions only in that category, but a simple search field would help if you don’t know what category it is in but you know the name on the transaction.

Overall, Expensr is a good tool for those who want to do their budget quickly and without a lot of fuss.  I would guess that college students and single folk would benefit the most, though it can serve a purpose for anyone who doesn’t spend hours staring at their monthly budget.  If you are looking for a free alternative to Quicken or Microsoft Money and you don’t need all the features of a full-fledged budgeting software, Expensr would fit the bill.

Next time I’ll talk about myTotalMoneyMakeover.com, and whether or not I think it is worth the subscription price.

 

Filing Taxes Online

March 13, 2008 Leave a comment

For the past two years, I’ve used Liberty Tax Service to file my taxes online. It was cheap and easy, though not completely robust. I decided to make a change, so this year, I had the “privilege” of trying two other sites to file my taxes.

I started with TurboTax Online and I would have gladly stuck with them except for a bug which gave me an incorrect calculation at an important part of the process. I was entering the amount of money we withdrew from our HSA for medical expenses, and TurboTax was taxing me for that even though it is tax exempt.

Others on the forums reported the same problem, and after waiting a month and starting over, the problem was not fixed. So I checked out MacWorld’s review of the most popular online tax preparation sites, and decided to give TaxAct.com a try.

I was not disappointed. I moved through the process relatively quickly, thanks to an intuitive interface. I filed a 1040 form for free and had no problems entering information about investments and a couple of special situations we had.

If you are looking for a affordable, error-free, easy-to-use interface for preparing your taxes online, I highly recommend TaxAct.

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