I recently have had the opportunity to try out PocketSmith a newer online service that turns the ordinary expense tracking software on it’s end. Instead of revolving around the traditional register entry of any of the other packages out there PocketSmith centers on a calendar that will let you manage events and forecast your future savings. A chief complaint we have about most of the personal finance software out there is the focus of tracking expenses rather than managing your money. PocketSmith has done a great job making the focus of their tools on directing your income and helping you achieve your goals rather than showing you where it all went, although it will do that too.
Where to Buy?
PocketSmith is entirely an online service with no stand alone component so you’ll have to go online to setup your account. There are three offerings including a free option although beyond playing with the features you’ll only get 8 budget events and 2 different transaction accounts which for most people will be too limiting. The Premium option moves up to Unlimited budget events, 5 calendars and 8 transaction accounts for $5 a month. Finally the Super service moves up to 12 calendars and unlimited transaction accounts for $12 a month. The nice part is no matter where you start you have all the features available you are only limited in the scope of some of the services.
The Dashboard is the nerve center of the Software giving you cash forecast as well as laying out your actuals against that forecast. You get a quick snapshot of the weeks calendar with budgeting events and a roll up of your Bank Transaction accounts. Down below you can see your budgeting success as you move through your budgeting periods. Also tracked are any specific goals you setup which we’ll talk about in a minute.
Since this is a web based product all of the help is obviously on the web too. Help is always available in the top right corner of the screen which brings you to a collection of getting started guides and walkthrough videos to get you going. There are screen captures of most every step you can think of and I really feel like they put a good amount of effort in trying to help their customers succeed. I wish some of the bigger services would remember this (cough: Intuit, cough). They also have a Request Help button available on the left where you can shoot off any quick questions you might have and if they don’t have it covered they’ll add it to their knowledge base.
What is missing is a comprehensive manual say in PDF format that you could keep local or print off but again that doesn’t set them apart from any of the other software out there, it’s just something I would like to have.
PocketSmith Forecast Calendar
The Forecast Calendar is where PocketSmith really shows it’s stuff. You get an overview of the current month with your budget events that you’ve color coded shown at their respective occurrence throughout the month. You can have several calendars to track debt on one calendar, general expenses on the other and have all of them show up on the main calendar view. It’s really a very simple way to think about your finances and if you are new to budgeting or finance software in general you might possibly love this view. The reporting is gorgeous below you’ll see a forecast of expenses and income.
You have two options to enter data either through manual transactions that you enter individually or by uploading data from your bank. In the case of the manual transactions PocketSmith goes one further by even allowing you to enter transactions on the go from a Twitter account.
Uploading your Banks Data
You have the option of syncing with your Banks transactions but it’s a two step process rather than the automated syncing that some of the other services provide. You’ll need to download your transactions from your bank onto your computer in either CSV, OFX or QIF formats and then you can upload that file right into PocketSmith. It’s not as convenient as say Mint or Quicken but at the very least you can be sure that PocketSmith doesn’t have all the access to your banks website.
Compares are what PocketSmith refers to as your budget actuals showing you through a variety of methods how you are doing against your budget while showing you how much remains in your various categories. Once again there are several views depending on your tastes, a neat horizontal calendar, the old histogram charts, graphs etc.
The final component of PocketSmith is their Goal function. Now the cool part about this setup is that a goal can be saving for something or it also can be paying something off. It will also provide a forecast based on your entered data of when you will pay off or save for that goal.
PocketSmith Review Wrap-Up and Recommendations
Who’s it For?
PocketSmith is for anyone who’s tired of the old school checkbook transaction register as a way of managing your finances. If you love calendars and work better visually this might be a fantastic method by which you could setup a budget, work towards goals and win with your money. It’s as secure as an online service can be especially because they don’t have your bank login data and the interface is very polished and user friendly with some good mobile options as well.
Who’s it Not For?
If you are a diehard old school software user from the Quicken and MS Money camp this might be an overwhelming interface for you. You’ll be used to working in the check register and the calendar will take some getting used to. Also if you absolutely require automated transaction downloads then this won’t work.
If you are just starting up and want to try a service I would say 100% to give it a try, you have nothing to lose and I know they have a variety of features in the works. The nice part with a web interface is you don’t have to mess with upgrades. It’s a unique interface that I think people are going to like and I love the fact that they aren’t following the arbitrary standard model.
PocketSmith Give Away
In order to be eligible for our give away of 3 yearlong PocketSmith premium accounts you merely need to join the FiscalGeek Community. As part of our communty you’ll get access to special offers, giveaways, discounts, roll ups of our posts and a free copy of our upcoming eBook comparing all of the various personal finance software options. The drawing will occur on 3/31/10 and winners will be notified by email.