Paycheck to paycheck like us: Quicken Online makes tracking money even easier

In a crowded market of online budgeting applications, it's hard for a product to stand out, especially when the competition contains heavyweights like Wesabe, Mint and Rudder. But that's what Quicken Online does. Quicken separates itself from its competitors in two important areas; ease of use and a clear focus on those of us living paycheck to paycheck.

For new users, the ease of use is quickly apparent when it comes to linking your bank account with Quicken Online. While account linking is a standard feature of online budgeting tools, those who of us who bank at smaller institutions and credit unions have had to manually download account activity and then upload it in order to keep accounts up to date. Quicken has made it easier than ever to update your info. By working some magic on the back-end, it's able to link up to my credit union's online bank account with only a "captcha" to stand in the way; a great improvement from the upload practices at other budget tools.

The second strength is the obvious focus on helping individuals living paycheck to paycheck manage their finances. New users are moved through a three-step process:

  1. Get a Grasp -- Stop wasting money on overdraft fees etc.
  2. Where am I overspending? -- Use built-in budgeting tools to find where you are spending too much.
  3. Start building wealth -- With the foundation in place, it's time to start saving money.
Yes, the other online budgeting tools do similar things, but going through the sign-up process and linking my accounts made it obvious that I was being gently guided in this direction:

Quicken Home Screen

Speaking of the sign-up process, Quicken does an amazing job of identifying the recurring bills and paychecks that my accounts experience. Despite mistaking the $30 I seem to spend at Meijer on the same day every month, Quicken nailed my various paychecks and picked up almost all of my bills. From this information, Quicken Online is able to provide a What's Left figure like its competitor Rudder, with a handy trend graph as well.

I won't get into the debate about who came up with this feature first, but while Quicken has a more intuitive user interface, I do miss the ability to change a future transaction from the "What's Left" screen and see the immediate impact, like I can in Rudder.

Quicken Trends

Like other budgeting tools, Quicken Online offers trend analysis to see where you spend your money with the usual array of pie charts and pretty graphs. But it outshines its competitors by uncannily categorizing purchases even at small local shops and restaurants. In a month's worth of transactions, I only had to categorize five or six purchases, which immediately made my trends and budget info more accurate, and thus more helpful.

Last week Quicken upgraded its trend page to make the information even more useful. While there are plenty of new features listed on the Quicken Online Blog, the two that are the most useful to me are the automatic savings suggestions, and what I'll call the means indicator. The means indicator analyzes your income and expenses and flat out tells you if you are living beyond your means. I really like the fact that Quicken doesn't sugar coat the data, or leave it to users to draw their own conclusions; it's right there, you're spending too much. This high level view also shows you what percent of your income you are saving and what percent you are spending.

Quicken Auto Savings Suggestions

The automatic savings suggestion feature is another cool financial tool that helps you choose what high level spending categories to cut back on. When you drill down to a specific category, not only will you see your average monthly expenditures, but also what percentage of your expenses make up this category and how much you could save a year by cutting back by 10%. Based on my experience, I suggest you start by taking a look at your dining expenses, and begin your cutbacks there. Lots of people are shocked to find out how much they spend eating out every month.

Quicken My Wallet

Quicken Online has another cool feature that I particularly like, which is the My Wallet cash account, which is loaded into your list of accounts. This lets you track the cash purchases that live outside the realm of automated accountability. This is great news for people like me who go against the grain when it comes to overspending. While most people overspend when using plastic, for me cash is where I'm the worst. As a user of practically every online budgeting tool out there, if I use my debit card to buy something the transaction is recorded in numerous places to remind me what I bought. But if I pay in cash, I can be as irresponsible as I want. My brain sees cash and thinks, free money. The My Wallet feature may finally break me of this habit. Yes, you can track cash transactions in other budgeting tools, but the ease of use in Quicken Online makes it shine.

Quicken Online also offers a free iPhone app to manage your money on the go. The movie embedded below will give you a pretty good idea of what the App can do for you.




Having tried out the majority of online budgeting tools, I've found things I truly love about each, both on a personal, and professional level. But despite my passion for the other tools, my experience with Quicken Online has made it my daily driver of budget tools.

The combination of cash tracking, ease of use and blunt interpretations of my spending patterns is a superb tool. By innovating and improving on common areas of online budgeting, Intuit has raised the bar for all other online budget tools.

Don't let past impressions of Quicken products stop you from checking out Quicken Online, it is an online budgeting force to be reckoned with!

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