Expensr test-driven for 20 minutes.

Of late, I have come to realize the benefits of meticulous money management. I took advise from a few experienced friends and borrowed a few excel sheets to get the idea to and got started. But soon , I settled down on Microsoft Money. I have been using it for little over 2 years now. Over times, I have also compared it with alternatives like GNU-Cash, etc. But Money has always remained my favourite.

Today, for the first time I am going to compare it with a on-line tool called Expensr. It was mentioned in one of LH (Lifehacker) posts. I played around with it for about 20 minutes or so. Which is the same amount of time I played with Money before i decided to go for it.

To keep things simple, here are the things I tried out. I am assuming that they will be pretty much you will want to try. I will, of course, be most interested to know if you've tried out something more. Please leave a note or a link to your blog entry in a comment to this post. So, here's the list:
  • Setting up new accounts eg. Saving, Checking and Credit Cards
  • Importing a small subset of my existing records
  • Downloading records for my bank
  • Entering a few entries for money spent and money received.
  • Looking through the reports
  • Exporting the records to a file on my disk
  • Looking through reports.
    My favourites - Category-wise spending, Per Category Month-on-Month spending per category
And here are my observations

  1. Setting up accounts - this and entering basic transactions was pretty easy and obvious. However, there's no visual way of differentiating accounts. A preceding icon for each type would be nice (say a little golden card for credit cards and so on).
  2. Importing Data - I did not find a way to import data from other softwares. The first one I would have expected was from CSV (for all those using Excel or similar spreadsheet softwares)
  3. Downloading statements from my bank - There's a place to download transactions from your online bank account. But at the moment, the list of banks supported is pretty small and lists all american banks. Mine was not one of them, so I wasn't able get any further.
  4. Entering transactions - This is pretty easy - but pretty basic. It's simple to categorize and re-categorize transactions. Biggest problem is that the currency is set to USD. There's no way to change that. And that also means, no way to record transactions in other currencies.
  5. Reports - the reports are pretty basic. For now, i can see only one category at a time. Month-on-Month comparison can be done in the Timeline tab. But what about year-on-year or custom dates/ months? I am hoping this area improves a *lot* over the time.
My Conclusion? Expensr offers a pretty basic set of features. But it will be a while until users like myself can take it to regular use. And I like to think of myself as a low to medium-level user.

For expensr team, here are a few features I would like to see in there:
  • Ability to change currency
  • Ability support multiple currencies
  • Support for downloading statements from more financial institutions. Especially those outside US.
  • Ability to import transactions from popular softwares (Money, quicken, CSV, etc).
  • Ability to download transactions to local disks in popular formats (Money, quicken, CSV, etc).
  • Ability to add recurring bills/ expenses (I depend heavily on this)
  • Ability to flag transactions - I use this a LOT (especially the one's i don't understand at the beginning)
  • Many more reports. The more the better.
  • Perhaps a separate tabs on savings. Thing i would like to see in there would be reports on projected growth on the basis of interest rates provided.
There are more, but I am sure this is enough to give you a general idea. I hope you found this worth your time. I would appreciate any corrections, comments or even witti/criti-cisms.

If you are interesting in trying Expensr your self. Visit http://www.expensr.com. There's also a on-line demo if you want to play around before you sign up (which is free, by the way).