As many of you have become aware, I have an unlimited text plan and use it to my full benefit. One of the ways I utilize it is through a financial tracking system called Buxfer.

Checkbooks are so out-dated. Many places don’t accept personal checks anymore, but are instead perfectly fine with taking a debit card that draws from the same account. I haven’t carried a checkbook with me a single day of my life. It stays at home for bill paying. It is because of this that I used to have difficulties knowing my account balances. Sure, I can keep a couple hundred dollars ‘padding’ in there at all times. But what happens when I see those big items that scream ‘BUY ME!’? Well usually I’ll run away from inanimate talking objects…. But then I wonder ‘if only there was a way I could check my balance without having someone log into my bank’s website and check for me’. Enter Buxfer.
Buxfer understand that the last thing most people want is to memorize ANOTHER online password. So they give you the option to login using your credentials from another site, like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Facebook, and OpenID.
The free service they offer allows you to enter up to 10 accounts for tracking. I have my bank accounts, my CD, and my credit cards all in there. Some of you may have more financial stuff going on than I do, and that’s fine. They have really cheap paid services that allow you more accounts… Or you can realize that the CD isn’t moving a lot and probably doesn’t need live tracking. Anywho
After you get your accounts set up, you enter a starting balance for each. Then you start adding transactions, and away you go! Transactions mirror real life too; you can have pending transactions, income, expense, account transfers, reconciled. There’s also a nifty tagging tool. With this, you can then grab transactions matching particular tags and throw them into pie charts and such, all within Buxfer. Wondering how much you spent on food last month? Buxfer can tell you. Wonder how much of that was for a meal instead of random junk? Set the right tags and let the guilt trip begin.
“Now hold on one second Michael. The title of this post says text messaging can be used. But how??” You tell Buxfer your phone number, and you can then send it properly worded texts to get data back. The default account Buxfer gives you is named Cash, and I’ll be using that name for the following examples.
So you want the balance of what’s in Cash right now? Send a message to the Buxfer address saying “bal Cash”. In a minute or less, you’ll get a text telling you how much you have there. It’s just so easy!
*FYI* The balance returned is the ledger balance, not the available balance. So if you have a starting balance of $600 and a $200 pending transaction (waiting on someone to cash a check, for instance), the “bal Cash” message will tell you there is still $600 in there. So watch out! I almost got burned on this one.
After you’re done checking balances, you can also add transactions on the go with a text message. I’m going to my work’s cafeteria for lunch today. After I pay for it, I’ll send the price in a text message with this form: “lunch cafe 6.32 tags:main meals acct:cash”. lunch cafe will be entered as the description for the transaction. $6.32 will be deducted from my Cash account (if you put a plus sign in front of the money amount, it would be income). tags: tells Buxfer to take everything else as tags, until it reaches acct: which tells it what account to change. Also, you can add rules for tagging. So my text would be simpler than the one shown above, because I told Buxfer if the description has the words ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’, or ‘dinner’ in it to automatically apply the ‘main meals’ tag. Voila! Poetry in texting.
Well, I think I hit the highs and lows. Like most tools, Buxfer can be very helpful. The key to it doing its job well is how much use it gets. If I get lazy a couple days and don’t keep it up to date, everything in it is officially bunk.
Oh, there is some kind of feature where it can link to your other online accounts and stay synchronized that way. So you could give it your credit card logins and it would fetch that data regularly for you. I don’t use this feature because I keep it up to date better on my own. Credit card sites typically lag transaction data by a couple days, which irks me greatly….
And last and maybe least, there’s an iPhone app or specially designed page, for you crazy Apple crack babies out there.
Anyhow, watch your money and have a pleasant day.