Brendan Nee

Buxfer, Mint & Quicken

October 7th, 2007

The future of personal finance software will be online. I regularly use buxfer to keep track of shared expenses with my roommates and friends. Often we’ll share groceries or meals and its easy for one person to pay the whole bill, then enter the transaction online later and split it evenly (or unevenly) among the participants. This is a lot less messy than everyone getting out their wallets to see who can make change then everyone accounting for their share of tax & tip. Its a bit fairer than alternating payers, as it doesn’t matter if you go to a spendy restaurant one night and a cheap one the next.

Buxfer recently added the ability to track your shared payments by account and to import transactions from a very limited set of banks. This expands buxfer from just a shared payment application to a personal finance tracking application. This space is filling rapidly. Mint.com recently won the techcrunch 40 competing against 39 other tech startups. Wesabe and Geezeo are similar applications, although mint.com has the cleanest interface.

I’ve used quicken to track my finances since starting college (and have the graph showing the inverse relationship between net worth and education to prove it). I am still using it but I’m ready to jump ship once there is a viable online application that can download info for all of my accounts and track stocks & loans. Right now, mint and wesabe do not provide the loan & stock tracking I’d like but most importantly, neither integrates properly with my checking account at Mechanics Bank.

The last thing I want is what they currently offer on the front page of their site: a box of software. I can’t remotely manage my finances using quicken nor can I use any computer except for the one on which it is installed. I also get the responsibility of dealing with backups and updates.

It seems to me that if Intuit wanted to stay relevant, they would either create a competitor to these finance startups or acquire one. They certainly have the widespread brand recognition to attract non-early-adopter users to the service and also already have established relationships with most financial institutions in terms of syncing transactions. Given the state of quickbooks online which requires Windows AND Internet Explorer, I’d imagine that an aquisition might be the more effective route.

Geezeo added the ability to track investments and loans this week, so I’ll have to check that out. I love the concept behind buxfer and it would be great to be able to use one application to track my personal finances and shared expenses. They have a ways to go until they’ve got something to compete with mint, but at the rate they have been adding features it may not be long.

Its only a matter of time until I can reduce the commercial software count on my computer.

  • Slushpupie

    The one big concern I have about online financial software is trust. How can I trust the company to keep my records private? I trust my bank, sure, but only because I have to. Quickin/Intuit is trustworthy, as they have a reputation (granted, it isnt spotless). But can you really trust some startup? Presumably you can keep your account numbers and such out of these apps (just label it “savings-account” or whatnot) but having all your financial information stored on a third party system concerns me a little.

    What I would like to see, is a good web interface for GnuCash (www.gnucash.org). I can host it on my server, and put my own security around it. I would trust that a lot more.

  • I agree that trust is a big part of any financial app, but at least many people are more than willing to trust some startup. Mint apparently now has $2B in peoples personal finances managed, signing up a new member every 5 seconds at one point. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/mint-rakes-it-in/) But for non-early adopters and those not comfortable with giving financial data to some startup, having the quicken branding would lend it the trust they need.

    A web interface for gnucash would solve a lot of issues, but wouldn’t provide some of the social aspects that mint and others are trying to bring to personal finance. I’m not sure how useful those would be to me personally, but mint claims to have identified $40 million in potential savings for members (by suggesting other credit cards and bank accounts).