The battle over how to manage my money

In my family, I manage the money. I pay the bills, I collect the receipts, and I balance the checkbook. I think it was my mom who taught me how to do all these things. I have this clear image of her at the dining room table about once a month, using her pencil (always) to balance the checkbook.

MoneyThings are different now. Instead of writing a few checks every month and paying cash or straight credit for everything else, Chris and I both use our ATM cards to pay for almost everything. From $4.14 at the Dunkin Donuts drive through to $56.77 at the gas station, we almost never pay for anything in cash. This means that balancing the checkbook has become a much more time-intensive exercise.

For the past two years, I’ve used Excel to manage the accounts. My financial management spreadsheet has multiple tabs for each account, and every receipt, check, and transaction gets entered into one or multiple tabs. This is a huge pain and a major time-sink. I’ve been talking to friends and family about their solutions, and none of them seem to have a better option that would work for me.

So I decided to examine the online personal finance options. The three solutions that I tested were Mint.com, Quicken Online and Geezeo.

MINT.COM
Mint.comGoing in I was most excited about Mint. They won the TechCrunch40 best of show, their online budgeting and money-saving tools look really awesome, and the service is free. I was able to sign up without any difficulty, but when I tried to enter my primary checking account information, the trouble began. I selected my bank from a list, entered my username and password, answered some questions and waited for the service to authenticate.

Error message: Wrong username or password?

After about two weeks of trying to get my account set up with Mint, after changing my username and password twice, I started searching the user forums for information about my bank (Citizens Bank, one of the major banks in the New England area, with more than 1,600 branches in the U.S.). I should have checked there sooner, because the forums revealed a number of threads about Citizens Bank, all with the same theme – it can’t be added. Here are some examples of threads related to this topic and the number of “views” of the threads:

Adding Citizens Bank a No-Go (11,204 views)

Problems adding accounts (27, 252 views)

Official Citizens Bank Support Petition! (10,337 views)

I also received confirmation of this fact from a Mint representative (about a week after I sent in a question via their Web form), that said basically the same thing: Citizens checking and savings accounts are not supported, and we can’t provide the eta for the addition of any bank.

Foiled.

QUICKEN ONLINE
Quicken OnlineQuicken Online, from Intuit, was the next solution that I tried. I had used the software version of Quicken in the past, and had a good experience. I was able to easily sign up for a Quicken Online account. There is a fee to use the service ($2.99 per month), which is certainly a reasonable amount in order to save myself some of the current money management pain that I am having, plus there is a 60-day free trial to make sure that I like the application before ever paying.

The test came when I tried to set up my checking accounts. Success! I spent some time using the tool, and thought it was easy to use and intuitive.

GEEZEO
GeezeoStill, I thought I could go for a free solution, so I tried Geezeo. This solution was one that I hadn’t heard of, so when I got to the site I clicked the link to watch the tour. The link didn’t work, there was no tour. And that was the end of Geezeo.

THE WINNER
I have been using Quicken Online for two weeks now, and it’s been fantastic. Dare I say that it is changing my life? It is definitely making managing our family’s personal finances a great deal easier.

Money photo by jenn_jenn

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