The online budgeting tools we’ve have access to so far, like Mint for instance, have seemed pretty high-tech for being able to draw information out of your credit card and debit card statements online, and lining it all up for you on your budget. It’s kind of strange to think about it now, but why was this a big deal? There is information in your account, and Mint just synchronizes itself to it – kind of the way an iPod can sync itself to the tracks you have on your computer. If you think about it, the Holy Grail for a computer budgeting tool should be finding a way to gathering information about your cash spending. Could there ever be a way for them to achieve that?
Not that there is any all-round agreement that tracking every last cent you spend would be desirable; some will even find it creepy. But there are those, usually the responsible ones, who would give an arm and a leg for budgeting tools that could actually make this possible. So how exactly does a budgeting tool achieve this? Usually, it does it with a smartphone; but with others, a simple text messaging phone is all you need. And there are the exotic ones that will keep track of what you spend in cash with private Twitter messaging.
Let’s start with how Mint achieves this. Mint has an iPhone app that allows you to split ATM withdrawals into categories; and when your cash comes from sources other than an ATM, you can easily manually make entries through your iPhone. There are some rather sophisticated budgeting tools out there that tend to automate the process somewhat. Wesabe for instance, has forever allowed budgeters to manually key in transactions in cash. What’s new now, is the way it allows you send private Twitter posts to your budget account over the Internet, and mention what you spend. Let’s say that you spent five dollars on a piece of chocolate cake at a local bakery. If you would send out a tweet that would go “d Wesabe $5 coffee cake “, it would get added to your account. Of course, to do this, you would need to register your Twitter account with Wesabe. Of all the methods that the new budgeting tools allow you as a way to keep track of your cash, tweeting has to be the most popular. It has an accessible interface on your smartphone, and sending a tweet is effortless.
Wesabe’s new iPhone app is going to make it even simpler when it comes out. Right now, their iPhone app requires you to patiently fill in all the details needed in separate columns and categories. But it has considerable competition in a number of startups. What should be real interesting coming up now, should be the business traveler expense tracking service. Xpenser for instance allows you to record information about what you spend, and upload a picture of your receipt. Through all this are other services that compete with it too – Expensify and Smallspend among various examples.
There are budgeting tools available aplenty now, what with the banks getting in on the action as well. Bank Of America has an online budgeting tool that has forever allowed users to split their ATM transactions. Done this way, budgeting spent cash can become quite manageable. It can become as detailed, or as sparse as you wish. Nevertheless, cash tracking budgeting tools aren’t effortless. When you use services like Xpenser, you can’t export your information to any other online budgeting tools. You could however, export it to an Excel spreadsheet, and import that into another tool like Mint.
The thing is, there is no real merit to wanting to keep track of every dime you spend. The whole point of the budgeting exercise is to identify the areas you spend too much cash on. And for the most part, you can do that with a looser grip on your wallet.