Budget Review: Budget Tracker – Week Two

Money in hand

This is week two of my review of Budgettracker.com, an on-line budgeting program. This week I will review adding expenses into my budget. I will have to start off by saying, I was really reluctant to do this step. I had tried it in the beginning of the week and has some difficulty. It got better and easier to navigate with time but I will admit I had some misgivings to start.

To add a transaction for free you must do each manually. If you want the ability to import transaction from another program, this service is available for an additional fee. One thing I thought was kind of interesting is that you can import transactions from Mint.com, another online budgeting program. If you can use Mint for free, why would you pay and upgrade to have that information imported into Budget tracker? Maybe this will be answered when I check out the Mint site.

To add the transaction manually you select it from tabs at the top of the page. Then you can choose the payee from a drop down of bills entered prior. There is also the option to specify the status of a transaction. I guess the purpose of this is to account for checks that are en route and have not cleared. Unfortunately, this is not all that useful to me since I don’t write many checks. It just doesn’t seem practical to take the extra time to change the status once the check clears. Why not just account for it once it has cleared? However, if you are someone who writes a lot of checks this might work out better for you.

One feature I really liked is that you can add the transaction to a separate report for something such as tax deductions, cash back or coupon savings. This might be help full if you are awaiting rebates or need to keep a business expense report as well.

In addition, instead of selecting the bill it apples to, you can also choose a category such as gas or groceries. However, there is a limit of 60 transactions before you need to upgrade and pay a fee. After a month this 60 amount could easily be exceeded. I was already up to 28 in 12 days. I found I combined smaller transactions under a general category heading like dining out. Since listing them individually would use up this 60.

It got a bit frustrating when I could not properly account for other categories due to the 15 category limit. I needed a place to account for gifts, clothing and leisure purchases (like books) and could not fit it under anything or add a new categories since I had reached my free limit. cart

There is also a tab in which you can enter multiple transactions. This made me very happy and it cut down on my data entry time immensely. It removed much of the extraneous information and boxes that I felt were unnecessary for me and sped up the whole process.

Once all of the transaction information is imputed, it shows you a nice, clear listing of your deductions and giving you a remaining balance at the end. It also organizes your expenditures into a pie chart. If I could list all of the actually categories I needed, then this would have been a nice feature. There is also a transaction forecast tab that will shows upcoming reoccurring bills along with your previous transactions. I assumed this was so you can estimate what you will need to cover those bills. However, I wasn’t sure how useful this page was and could find no description of it.

In the end, I really liked the ease of entering multiple transactions all at one. The speed of this really appealed to me. However, not having enough categories made my tracking inaccurate and limiting. I don’t feel like additional categories is something worth upgrading to.

All in all Budgettracker.com did get me to acknowledge that I am way on pace to overspend on groceries again and need to slow it down. Hope you find this review helpful. Next week I will cover some of the unique features related to goals and reports that this program offers.

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Your thoughts???