Free Budget Software Review: Quicken Online

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The kind folks over at Intuit have recently released a free Online version of Quicken aptly titled Quicken Online.  Really what can you expect out of free online software?  How about trending data, text messages, iPhone apps among other features? From Quicken Marketing Info:

Our interactive charts automatically categorize transactions so you can see the big picture up close and personal. Want even more information? You can also:

  • See how you’re doing month-to-month
  • Quickly access your average expenses for any given category
  • Know instantly whether you’re spending more than you make
  • View income vs. expenses side-by-side
  • Focus on one particular category

Alright enough marketing fluff let’s get under the hood. Let’s get one thing straight before I continue, FiscalGeek is a huge proponent of budgeting and the zero based budget. So this will temper any review of any personal finance software looking at it from the standpoint that we want to manage money not just see where it went.

Setting up Your Quicken Online Account

Quicken Online Signup Setup is incredibly easy merely head to their site enter a few details and your in. Once you are there you’ll find an extensive collection of financial institutions. They had all of mine including my local credit union which is impressive. The interface is dirt simple, for my bank they asked for my login and password at the bank and were able to connect no problem. You can add multiple accounts without any trouble and it will aggregate them in your financial summaries in your left control bar.

The Transaction Registry

Quicken Online Register This is where you’re going to be doing all of your work and mirrors what a traditional check registry looks like.  It’s where you’ll categorize your transactions and enter expenses before they’ve shown up at your bank. On the left hand side you get a summary view of all of your accounts and the main screen shows your current month view.  With a click and a drag you can can change your view to be a range of as many months as you want that’s very slick.  You then can categorize your various expenses which will help you with budgeting.  It does pretty well out of the gate and I’d give it about a 40% accuracy classifying my transactions just on it’s own.  As you enter more and more it will automatically classify expenses based on your patterns.

Quicken Online Money Trends

quicken_trends This is where Quicken Online starts to get interesting.  Assuming you have Adobe Flash installed you’ll get a very cool view of your transactions including a dubious rating of how you are doing living within your means.  The graphing is gorgeous and can show your trends in 1 month, 3 month, 6 Month or custom data ranges. You can also pick whether you want Quicken to report on your spending, income or savings.   There is some serious graphing sexiness going on here.  Below that trend you’ll get a roll-up of the detailed data as well.

Set Budget Goals

quicken_savings_goal In Quicken Online you can set budget targets for each category and see in a polished interface how you are doing for that month.  It’s based off the categories you set in your transaction register and you can adjust what you want the budget goal to be for that month.  It’s a very simple interface and is quit easy to use.  This is as close to a budgeting interface as you’ll get with the free Quicken Online.

Quicken Online Mobile Features

Another interesting aspect of Quicken Mobile is that it will send text alerts to your cell phone a sweet feature if your bank doesn’t already provide that service.  You merely text any of the following commands and you’ll get some banking data. Note that Quicken Online only updates your accounts once each day so your data might be slightly out of date if you are running close.

  • BAL – Get a message for each checking and credit card account. It shows your balance and last 5 transactions.
  • BAL ALL – Get a message for every 5 of your accounts (including savings and investments). It shows only your balances.
  • BAL CHK – Get a message for each checking account. It shows your balance and last 5 transactions.
  • BAL CREDIT – Same as BAL CHK for your credit card accounts.
  • BAL SAVE – Same as BAL CHK for your savings accounts.
  • STOP – Stop getting messages from us

quicken_iphone_expenseIf you want to login directly from your mobile phone with browsing options just point it to http://m.quicken.com and you’ll get an abbreviated interface.   Finally there is also an Iphone App you can download that integrates directly with Quicken Online. The App is Quicken Online Mobile and it gives you some high level capabilities to use your Quicken online but most importantly it allows you to track and categorize your expenses when you are out and about. That way you’re not going to run into trouble with expenses you haven’t reconciled.  You’ll find it of course at out that Apple iPhone App Store, it’s a free app as well.

Who’s it For?

Quicken Online is for anyone looking for a really simple way to track your expenses and do some basic budgeting and trending.  For a free package it’s quite good and can handle the basics.  If you are looking to do more planning and budgeting and really want to develop a Zero Based Budget this is not the software you are looking for.  You’re going to have to spend some money for that level of budgeting and look for future software reviews where we’ll look at some of the paid options.  But if you are looking for an easy way to track your expenses with a myriad of access options this is a good choice.  At the very least give it a try it’s free after all you’ve got nothing else to lose.

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