Delicious For Money

I’ve been using Quicken since April 7, 1988. I know that because Quicken sits open 24/7 on a windows desktop in my office and I just checked to see the date of the first transaction. I remember that time well. It was the spring of 1988 and the Gotham Gal and I had gotten married after living together for five years and had just purchased our first home, a one bedroom apartment. It was time to get serious about money and at that time (the mid 80s), getting serious about money meant Quicken.

Quicken’s taken us a long way, from two kids who had to borrow money from our parents to come up with the down payment for that apartment to two middle aged adults with three kids and the financial freedom to do what we want. The financial controls we put in place and managed with Quicken got us through some tough spots when we had no money and at ton of expenses.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the age question, particularly in light of Clay Shirkey’s post where he said, "In the last 15 years or so, I’ve had to unlearn every one of those things and a million others". I am a child of the desktop software era, not the web era. I grew up playing with Radio Shack, Apple, and IBM desktop computers. That took me to MIT and on to the VC business. The Googles of my generation are Microsoft and Apple.

But I know one thing, the web changes everything. It’s a better platform. And so we are moving on from Quicken. To a service called Wesabe. The Gotham Gal blogged about it earlier this month and I’ve been meaning to do the same ever since. Wesabe is a web based financial management service. It allows you to upload all the accounts you transact in (checking account, credit cards, etc) and manage your spending on the web. There are other services like Wesabe and more are coming, but right now Wesabe is the best fit for our needs.

Wesabe is a social tag-based web app and in that statement lie to the two reasons I think its vastly superior to Quicken.

Wesabe is social meaning that it’s not an island of information sitting on my home desktop computer. I certainly don’t want others seeing my personal financial information and Wesabe is obsessed with data security, maybe a tad too much for my taste. But it is still a social app. When it sees that I am spending $100 per month at Astor Wines, it makes the connection to others who frequent the same wine store so we can connect and talk about what we like and don’t like and possibly find other places to buy wine in the neighborhood.

Wesabe uses tags to categorize information. Most accounting services use the standard hierarchical accounting conventions that every transaction has to be placed in a single category. The dinner we had on vacation with my brother in law has to be placed in either dining or vacation, or possible the dining subcategory of vacation. In Wesabe, you just tag it with as many categories as you want, dining and vacation for sure, and maybe also my brother in law’s name and sushi and fantastic to boot. You never know when you are going to need that info. It’s a fundamentally different way of organizing data and once you’ve gotten used to tagging instead of foldering, you can’t really go back.

Here are some screen shots that show what I am talking about. These are a few transactions from my American Express account.

Wesabe_2

You’ll see that each of them has multiple tags. I use the tag FB to symbolize my personal budget. The Gotham Gal and I have managed our discretionary spending since the early days of our lives together with two budgets, hers and mine. Each have a monthly number attached to them. Beyond staying in budget, we manage our discretionary money the way we choose without recrimination from the other side. It works like a charm and I recommend it to everyone. But you’ll also see that the transactions have other tags. While Emusic goes into my budget, it’s also a music expenditure and a monthly subscription. You’ll also note the tips. When Wesabe sees others who use the same vendor, they generate user tips. They can be really helpful.

Here’s some more detail on the Emusic vendor.

Emusic_2

This showcases the social side of Wesabe. You can see that Wesabe knows a lot about Emusic and is sharing that with me. I love that and hope they do more with this aspect of the service over time.

We are using Wesabe and Quicken in parallel right now. Old habits die hard. But I can feel it already. Quicken’s toast. It’s just a matter of time before we pull the plug on that windows machine in my office and don’t replace it. The web’s a better platform for everything, managing your personal finances included.