I’ve taken a break from playing with Money and Quicken for awhile, to see if I can get away with just downloading files once a month, versus inputting every transaction every day (latte, $3… latte, $3…). In the meantime, I’ve been trying out GBI Home Finance Manager (GBIfin), a personal finance manager that is completely online so you can access it from any computer. It’s based on phpfin, an ‘donationware’ program that is freely downloadable but you’ll need to host it yourself and do your own tweaking. GBIfin hosts the program for you, and also provides some enhancements to the original program as well as support. The company seems to be based out of the U.K., but I haven’t had any real issues (the only main differences I can see is the choice of different currencies, and the fact that the dates show as dd/mm/yyyy instead of mm/dd/yyyy.)
The program is pretty straightforward to use, just like with Money or Quicken you have to ‘build’ your accounts up first, which is a bit time consuming but you only have to do it once. You make your Accounts for each bank, and then you can either input your transactions yourself or import downloaded .qif or .csv files. The good thing is that both of these have been an industry standard format for years, so just about every bank out there exports your information in one of these formats. (Unlike with Quicken, where sometimes you just can’t download anything.). The downside is that you can’t sync automatically online with banks. However, sync’ing with Money or Quicken has been hit or miss so far, and not all banks offer it anyways.
When importing the account transactions, you must select a Category for the transactions – i.e. rent, dining out, utilities, etc. This helps in the budget analysis later. You can get reports on what you spend in each category for your chosen budget period, along with percentages. Here’s a screenshot that I took for a 2-day range. You can also set savings goals, and it’ll tell you how your doing.
Cost? It’s subscription-based, at ?2/month or ?15/year, which converts to about $3.72/mo or $28/year, darn crappy exchange rate. That’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not too far off. Money 2005 Standard costs $30, and you end up buying it either yearly or every other year.
Cons? Well, sometimes it feels a bit slow, the clock somehow reminds me of an old Mac spinny wheel. GBIfin also doesn’t all the bells and whistles that other software has, like the ability to handle stock/bond transactions or online bill pay, but it also doesn’t bombard you with ads while you are trying to balance your checkbook (like Money) or cripple itself after a couple years (like Quicken).
Pros? It’s simple and it works. It imports transactions. It’s available from any computer. It’s secure (https://). You don’t need to “reconcile transactions”, or deal with specific banks. It tracks your accounts, analyzes your transactions, and lets you see where the money goes so you can budget and control it. That may be all you need. I already have online bill pay anyways.
Should I try it? Sure, why not? They are offering the first month for free. As for me, it’s definitely in the running against Money and Quicken with me, but try it for yourself.
By Jonathan Ping | Budgeting | 5/12/05, 7:04pm