ClearCheckbook is a free online budgeting and financial goal-setting tool that provides plenty of tutorials for using it. ClearCheckbook offers the flexibility of being as simple as you’d like to make it – or taking your finances to the next level with paid Premium features.
- Thorough tutorial
- Great features
- Debt snowball plan
ClearCheckbook walks you through your initial accounts and budget setup with a thorough tutorial on how to use the site. It provides some ready-to-go accounts (e.g., checking, credit card) that you can add simply by entering the current balance. You can select the appropriate currency for each account separately and you can even use Bitcoin as a currency. The startup tour also provides you with some ready made budget categories which you can edit, delete, add to, or use as-is. You can assign monthly unused budget rollovers on a category basis. On nearly every page, ClearCheckbook offers contextual help with whatever task you've embarked upon.
ClearCheckbook's home page dashboard is packed with information within customizable widgets. If you have a Mac running OS X you can also get a widget for your Mac's dashboard. ClearCheckbook is here to help you with online budgeting, financial goal-setting aided by tutorials for using it the program. The following are a few highlights customers typically appreciated:
- Free basic features
- Initial tutorial
- Budget rollovers
- "Debt snowball plan"
- Money lending tracker
- Mobile apps
- Save up trackers
A unique feature of ClearCheckbook is that it can help you set up a "debt snowball plan" which helps you pay down credit card debt as quickly and as cheaply as your budget allows. ClearCheckbook also provides a money lending tracker so you can keep tabs on IOUs. It's also easy to set up "Save-Up Trackers", with deadlines to help you reach your goals. ClearCheckbook offers a complete suite of mobile apps across which all your accounts are synced. Supported smartphone & tablet platforms include:
ClearCheckbook is secure primarily because it doesn't link to any of your bank accounts and no transactions are sent between it and any financial institutions. You only enter into ClearCheckbook whatever you need and all updates are manual. So, for example, you can call your checking account "Account 1" or "Fred's Account," or whatever you like so that you're not using any identifiable transaction or account information on BudgetPulse. Additionally, ClearCheckbook uses McAfee Secure 256-bit encryption for all data sent between your computer and their server and its SSL certificates are verified by VeriSign.
- Adding accounts can be tedious
- Automated transaction is not free
- Visually unappealing
Manually adding accounts and transactions to ClearCheckbook (either by hand or by uploading files) can be tedious and prone to error. Since it doesn't sync with your bank, you'll have to update transactions manually every time you wish to check your budget. Manual updating also means that ClearCheckbook won't offer account alerts because, in theory, if you're entering them yourself you won't need alerting. Some concerns include:
- Tedious manual entering of transactions
- No alerts to remind you of bills or budget limits
- Automated categorization only available on Premium plan
- Dated and text-heavy design
Automated transaction categorization is a feature that usually comes free with other personal financial sites, but ClearCheckbook requires you to pay $4 monthly for their Premium plan to use this functionality.
The visual appeal of ClearCheckbook's site leaves something to be desired as it has a dated feel to it, although since it's text heavy with few graphics pages load quickly.
The Bottom Line
ClearCheckbook is a great choice for setting up a simple budgeting system without the need for automatic transaction updates. It offers excellent support and thorough tutorials to get you up and running quickly. However, if you don't have the time to manually enter transactions, you might look elsewhere for a more automated solution. ClearCheckbook's free version has enough excellent features that there isn't much value added by purchasing the Premium version since other personal financial sites offer more for the same monthly price. Those that use ClearCheckbook can expect the following from the service:
- Free basic budgeting tools
- Compatible with a number of devices
- Manual transaction entry