Managing finances has occupied a significant amount of my brain power for quite some time. I want to improve the way I manage my finances, and I’d love a tool that would help me do that. I’ve tried Mint.com, budgeting tools, spreadsheets, apps, written budgets and tracking, QuickBooks, and several more methods and tools, but all have led me back to square one: wishing for a better financial tool.
Yesterday, I read this:
“The best way to come up with startup ideas is to ask yourself the question: what do you wish someone would make for you?”
It was written in a recent article discussing things Paul Graham taught in his articles. Now, my opinion may change over time. I may envision my ideal tool today but when I start using it tomorrow, I may wish it was different. There may also be a tool out there that I don’t think I will like, but I really do. However, I’ve used many tools so far and have learned a lot about what I like and don’t like in a personal and business financial tool. So, on that note, here are the features of the financial tool I wish someone would make for me:
1. My bank account and my financial tool are in the same place. That way, I can log in to one place for everything. I can make a bill pay and it automatically gets categorized to the right place. So, in the end, it seems it would be a tool that is either made by a financial institution or a startup that is bought by a financial institution.
2. No fees. Sure, I can pay for additional features or modules, but monthly service fees? No way.
3. Speaking of modules, I’d love it to be module based so that I only see the features I actually use yet it gives my the ability to use a feature-rich tool. Need to track charitable donations? There is a module for that. Take pictures of receipts and attach them to transactions? There’s a module for that. Track mileage? There’s a module for that. Investing. Credit score. Health care costs. Invoices. Online Bill Pay. The Works. Module, module, module. And if I don’t need that module, I don’t have to have it and it gets out of the way.
4. And you’ll notice I included “mileage” in this ideal financial tool of mine? Yep – anything that I have to include for taxes at the end of the year, I want the ability to track in this tool.
5. Custom categories. And not just traditional “custom categories” – I also want to be able to delete the categories I don’t use. Many tools I use have lots of preformed categories, many of which I don’t use and end up cluttering up my experience. I want the option to have just 5 categories if I want. Or 20. But I want to choose which categories are available and not see any more than that.
6. I don’t personally need much in the way of budgeting. Maybe something simple – like saving up for a trip next summer, but nothing major. I feel similarly to Mr. Money Mustache when it comes to budgeting tools:
“When you’re shooting for financial independence, I really like the “track your spending” method better than the “budgeting” method. With a budget, you allow yourself certain quantities of waste and try to stay within them. With tracking, your goal is NO waste, so you challenge yourself to cut every category, except eating, to zero. In reality it does not happen, of course, but the mindset of relentlessly thinking over every single purchase and trying to optimize it away is the thing that lets you develop your Frugality Muscle over time.”
Let me get down to a list of things:
7. 8. 9. etc.
- View balances
- View transactions and details
- Categorize those transactions in categories that I choose. Start with basic categories
- Automatically download transactions from my bank
- Connect with my bank – allow to move money between accounts
- Simple graphs/charts/summaries
- Simple interface. No un-used tabs
- Need it easy to make charitable contributions or donations and track what I’ve paid
- Easily prep taxes
- Integrate with taxes – for my accountant
- Personal and business tracked with the same program so I don’t have to use two
- Track income/revenue and expenses
- Bill pay
- Take pictures of receipts
- Simple goals
- Awesome reports
- Track revenue by customer, time period, etc.
- Accessible via mobile app
- Mobile check deposit
- Create and send invoices
- Track mileage
- Accept payments by credit card or bank transfer
- Investments – but not now
This list will grow and adapt over time. I plan to put some more time into envisioning a great personal and business financial tool. In fact, I just found out that my bank is now charging me a $13.00/month service fee on my checking account (more on that later). Not a fan. So that gives me a little fire under my feet. And when it comes to banking, finances, and tools – I’m tired of having my feet burned.
I agree with every single point in this post!
Great to hear that there is someone else who feels the same way 🙂
What tools to you currently use?
None yet :/ Trying to find a system I like to start using. Mint has a lot of potential but there are a few things that are annoying enough to make me not want to use it, like the auto categorizing feauture miscategorizes a good chunk of my purchases and they have too many categories for my taste.
Let me know if you find one that you like! I’d love to hear about it.
As you consider switching banks, you should check out MX. We offer many of the features you desire in a PFM – we call it Digital Money Management (DMM) because we take the personal labor out of managing finances. I was a Mint users and dissatisfied. The MX platform, found at 550+ banks and credit unions, is a far superior experience. If you’re interested I can point you to a financial institution in your area that is using our product.
Thanks for the post,
Hey Travis. Nice to hear from someone at MX. As a matter of fact, I applied to work at Money Desktop a few years ago 😉 I’d love to know which financial institutions are using it. I’d consider giving it a try. Thanks
America First FCU and Mountain America CU are 2 in Utah that use MX. I’d love to know what you think about the tools we have and any input for future development.
Thanks. I’ll consider Mountain America. Had a a big fee debacle with America First FCU when I had an account with them – so I don’t plan to use them again. Is there a full list of financial institutions that use MX that I could look at?