I’ve been a Quicken user for about twenty years. At first, I only used Quicken for account reconciliation, but still used a checkbook to make payments. As time went on, I purchased Quicken-branded checks for my printer and would have Quicken print my checks, but I would still stuff them in envelopes and drop them off at the post office in the middle of the night so they would go out in the next day’s first delivery. Then, I took a leap and became one of the early adopters of electronic checking through Quicken and their Quicken BillPay service. I used this service for many years, gladly paying the monthly surcharge (up to $9 and change) to get those payments transferred directly to my creditors. And more importantly, now I could *schedule* them to occur automagically. Payment due Monday, March 15th? No problemo, I would schedule the payment to go out to arrive their on Friday, March 12th. This kept the money in my bank account for as long as possible to maximize my interest income.
But that monthly charge started to gnaw at me — that’s almost $100 a year for my laziness! And at about $50 a pop every year or two for a new Quicken version, my dirty personal finance habit was definitely burning up any interest income I gained through it’s scheduling features. I could think of plenty of other things to do with $100.
At about the same time, I signed up with INGDirect to replace my CommerceBank accounts. You see, I had been a big fan of Commerce Bank which was a NY/NJ/PA area bank with great service hours and personable “small bank style” tellers — for example if I overdrew, a teller would call me and give me enough advanced warning to run down to the branch office and make a deposit. But they got purchased by the TDBank borg, and started charging for various services and I revolted! No more!
No more money to Intuit for Quicken! No more money to Quicken BillPay for sending out my checks! No more money to TDBank for their unwanted charges! No more keeping my money in accounts that didn’t yield interest!
Setting up an ING Direct account is easy. On the other hand, the online banking interface at ING Direct isn’t exactly straightforward, at least not for someone that’s been using Quicken for this long. But after a month of building up the address book with my payees and using it, it has become second nature for bill paying. A free service by a bank that pays interest in both my checking and savings accounts. Two months later, I stopped using Quicken and Quicken BillPay. ING Direct process automatic transfers and bill payments for me. Free.
It was then that I noticed I was missing something — the one killer feature of Quicken that I needed… the categorization of all payments, transfers and income. NOW what was I going to do? NO GRAPHS! NO CHARTS! NO REPORTS!
And then I remembered hearing about Mint. A website with a free service — you input your accounts and passwords, and then a page is maintained for you with all your information in a single window. Accessible from anywhere you can logon with a browser. Secure. Free. (Yes, I know Intuit purchased Mint. I’m not happy about it, but apparently they are taking great pains to make sure that Mint stays free and true to its original ideals – to help people save money).