Archive for December, 2007

A great end-of-year note

December 31, 2007

I can’t help sharing this note from Wesabe user Bzzzz, posted in Wesabe Groups:

As we go into 2008 it will have been a full year that I’ve been using Wesabe. While becoming more aware of my finances was my 2007 resolution, I had no idea how powerful doing it would be. I can tell someone where my entire year’s worth of income was spent, to the penny, and as a result I’ve saved more than I ever have before.

Today looking at my bank account, I have 0 debt (of any kind), high credit card limits, an outstanding credit score and I’ve saved more in 1 year than I did for the past 5 combined ($70K+).

Suffice to say, the way I view and manage money has profoundly changed for the better. This absolutely would not have been possible if it weren’t for the easy to use functionality of Wesabe and the fantastic updates and support from the team.

To the entire team – thank you. My life has changed for the better because of your efforts.

Thanks so much for the wonderful note, and I hope this inspires more people to make a great 2008 resolution to follow Bzzz’s example. And thanks to everyone who participates in Groups and helps make Wesabe better for everyone on the site. You’re all awesome. Happy new year!

The three personal finance writers you should read in 2008

December 31, 2007

New Year’s Eve is a time for wrapping up and looking back, and New Year’s Day is great for making resolutions. I’ve been reading the work of personal finance bloggers and journalists for a few years now, and I’ve been particularly impressed with three writers I think you should add to your New Year’s Resolutions list. Choose the one that’s best for your situation, and read what they write, or keep up with all three. A year from now, you’ll be much smarter about your money.

(Note, I’ve excluded everything on Wesabe from my top choices since I’m totally biased, although I certainly think that Wesabe Groups is one of the best sources of information and support around money issues that I know of. When we launched last year, a lot of people showed up and talked and got to know each other in our discussions, but over the year, the community has matured to the point where any reasonable question is likely to get one or several fantastic answers. Also, all of the writers listed below have covered Wesabe in some way, so I can’t claim to be completely unbiased about them, but — not meaning to brag — that’s true from all of the personal finance blogs and writers I read, so I can’t meaningfully exclude writers on that basis.)

Best Blog for People Struggling with Finances:
Get Rich Slowly

There’s no question that the best place to start if you’re just learning how to cope with money issues is J.D. Roth’s fantastic personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly. J.D. has taken a small personal diary and turned it into an essential resource with a great group of commenters and guest bloggers (full disclosure: I’ve contributed to his blog before and mean to again). J.D. blogs every day, talking about his own progress with finances — such as his recent post about saying good-bye to 20 years of debt — and topics that help people throughout their financial lives, such as his list of the 25 best books about money. He writes a ton and there’s a lot to absorb, especially if you read the comments, but the payoff is very high. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see J.D. write a book of his own in the coming year.

Best General Interest Personal Finance Columnist:
Linda Stern, Reuters

Linda Stern’s weekly column for Reuters is fantastically level-headed, clear, and well-researched. She covers topics that everyone should learn about, and makes complicated or controversial issues clear and concise. Some recent examples that I especially liked include her rational approach to preparing for a recession, and her clear and simple advice about 401(k)s. Having been interviewed by Linda before, I can say from experience that she is extremely thorough and precise, and is completely disinterested in anything but what is best for her readers. If you don’t have a lot of time and just want a quick lesson every week on how you can be getting more from your money, this is the column to read.

Best Finance Blog for People Ready to Save or Invest:
The Finance Buff

Probably the least well-known of the personal finance blogs I admire, The Finance Buff deserves to be a lot better-known. I found myself linking to one of TFB’s posts every week for more than a month recently and thought I should spread the linklove around, but why? The posts are great, clear, and more advanced than most finance bloggers. TFB has an MBA in Finance, and is a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist, so there’s more than the usual finance blog credibility behind the posts. Some great ones: Best Checking Account Which Is Not A Checking Account, Estimate Your Overall Personal Rate of Return, and Vanguard or T. Rowe Price Funds: Actively Managed vs. Index Funds. What I like best about TFB posts is that they teach a great way of thinking about building your savings and investments — not just a quick trick but a philosophy to understanding your options and costs. If you have money to save or invest and don’t know where to start, this is a great guide.

Thanks to all three of these writers for producing so much help for people struggling with money issues everywhere. Keep up the great work in the new year!

A little pie for the holidays…

December 25, 2007

We don’t all celebrate Christmas at Wesabe, and we know not all of you do, either, but we still thought it would be fun to put out a little gift tonight in honor of the season. Happy holidays!

Pie chartI’m very happy to announce the release of Firefox Uploader 1.2. There are a bunch of new features in this release, but the one that might make the most people happy is the first Wesabe pie chart (pictured here). The Wesabe Dashboard in the Firefox Uploader will now show you a pie chart of your top five tags, and will let you click through to a list of other tags, showing the percentage they consume in your finances.

There’s a “special ingredient” in this pie chart. Usually, to make a financial pie chart look right, each of your transactions has to go into exactly one category (or, if you split a transaction into parts, each part can only go in one category). In Wesabe, though, we allow you to use as many tags as you like on each transaction — you don’t have to limit yourself to just one category. That’s very flexible, but it makes simple reports like this pie chart more complicated, since tags “overlap” in the pie. Fortunately, our friends at Stamen helped us come up with a great solution to this problem, and the pie chart in the Firefox Uploader’s Dashboard is the first experiment using this solution. We believe it will allow you to use as many tags as you like on each transaction, and still get great, clear reports without having to do any extra work.

We’d love it if you could (after unwrapping your other presents, of course) let us know how the pie chart looks to you — does it feel like the right tags are shown? Do you see a tag that isn’t really one of your top five tags, or is one missing? And, of course, is it helpful?

Pie charts and better reports have both been frequent requests from Wesabe members, so if this experiment goes well, you can expect to see more of the same elsewhere on Wesabe.

But, pie does not make a full meal! The 1.2 release of the Firefox Uploader has a bunch of other new features, too:

  • In addition to the “Top 5 Tags” pie chart, we’ve added a new “Recent Transactions” bar chart to the Wesabe Dashboard.
  • There are new preferences to show or hide both charts, and to set the period of time they display.
  • You now can drag and drop sections in the Dashboard to rearrange them.
  • We added a “Disconnect” option to stop account uploads and lock the Dashboard (for instance, if you’ll be away from
    the computer and don’t want someone to see your recent transactions).
  • The Firefox Uploader will now automatically start syncing when you login to the Wesabe site.
  • We fixed a problem Quick Upload that was creating invalid accounts.
  • Currency formatting is now correct for account balances and recent transactions.

You can get the new Firefox Uploader from its install page, or by choosing “Tools -> Add-ons -> Find Updates” from within Firefox, if you already have an earlier version installed.

Congrats to Tim for putting so much work into this release. We hope you enjoy it, and happy holidays from everyone at Wesabe.

Fantastic Lifehacker write-up

December 15, 2007

Lifehacker

Lifehacker has an amazing and very detailed review of Wesabe today, “Organize Your Money in 2008 with Wesabe“:

Wesabe may just be secure enough for the most paranoid of privacy freaks. I could rattle on about how great their privacy policy is and how refreshing it is that they have a Data Bill of Rights, or you could hear about Wesabe’s privacy policy from the horse’s mouth….

Probably the best aspect of Wesabe is the strong community of users who continually help each other identify various ways to save money. Wesabe has very active forums which include a thread on how to improve Wesabe that is frequently reviewed by members of the Wesabe development team. Wesabe also injects user-submitted tips explaining various ways to save money unobtrusively into the interface….

I stayed with Wesabe because I love their mission, community, and their desire to continually improve the site. I am confident in their privacy policy, believe they will protect my data, and like that I can take my data with me if I want. I will not be returning to Microsoft Money, Quicken, GnuCash, or Mint anytime soon!

Thanks much to the LH crew for the great coverage — and thanks for all the great comments and feedback from Lifehacker visitors this morning.

Introducing Wesabe Mobile

December 12, 2007

Mobile HomeToday we’re happy to announce Wesabe Mobile, a cell-phone accessible version of Wesabe that lets you check your balances, see recent transactions, and enter cash transactions from any cell phone or PDA web browser. To check it out, fire up your cell phone browser and point it to m.wesabe.com.

We’ve had a number of people testing out the mobile site, and the feedback we’ve gotten the most often is that entering cash transactions from the road is a huge help. If you’re waiting for the barrista to make your favorite coffee drink, call up Wesabe Mobile and drop the cost of that drink into your accounts, and you’ll have a way to test the much-touted latte factor for yourself.

I’ve been traveling a lot of late, and testing Wesabe Mobile has been great for tracking travel expenses. Entering the cost of a cab fare from my phone has made it a ton easier to keep track of what I’m spending, and to make sure I’m getting reimbursed. Also, being able to check balances and make sure I know when a check has cleared is much easier from my phone.

When you enter a cash transaction, we treat your entry like we treat the imports that come in from your bank. You don’t have to worry about entering the full merchant name or the full set of tags from your phone keypad. Instead, enter just enough detail so that you’ll be able to remember what the transaction was. When you get back to your computer, the merchant will show up as “unedited” in your Wesabe account, and you can clean it up and enter more detail then — when you have a full keyboard to work with.

Cash TransactionWe’ve tested the mobile site extensively on iPhones (yeah, there are a lot of those running around the office), and on a number of Blackberries and other phones as well. Your phone browser will need to support SSL (which ensures that your balances and transactions are encrypted while you’re downloading them — something SMS-based systems can’t offer). Full instructions for using the mobile site are available here. Blackberry users, we recommend trying out Opera Mini (free download), since the built-in Blackberry browser isn’t…..that great. But, if you want to stick with that, check out this groups thread for some tips on getting it to work correctly. Also, Motorola Q users may also need the tips in that thread.

We’re psyched about this release — another way that we’re getting your financial information out of your bank and to you, securely, where and when you need it. If there are other things you’d like to see added to the mobile site, let us know.

Wheaties bookmarks for December 8th

December 8, 2007

Good reading for December 8th: