I logged into my free Quicken Online account yesterday for the first time in a while. Now that Quicken has about 90 days of data from all of my financial accounts, I started to play around with the trends feature. And I loved it. The “trends” tab on Quicken Online is arguably the free budgeting tool’s best feature, and provides a way to look at your spending that would be incredibly difficult–if not impossible–to create on your own.
The trends feature aggregates all of your income and spending from your linked accounts (checking, savings, credit cards, etc.). Quicken Online trends looks at all of your spending and income over a period of time. Tthe default is three months, although you can select year-to-date, this month, etc. You’ll see, at a glance, how much you have spent and how much you have earned and Quicken shows you how much either above or below your means you are living. It also breaks your spending down by category.
Personally, I’ve always known how much I’ve spent on my car between the payment (financed it before I knew any better, but it’s almost paid off), insurance, tolls, parking, gas, and maintenance. But Quicken Online showed me that over time, that damned car is my biggest expense. Yup, transportation costs me more than my housing expenses (although those are very low).
I considered these transportation expenses a fact of life when I had a long commute and used my car to visit my fiancee a hundred miles away every week. But now we live together and I can walk to work. So that expense needs to go! Once I pay it off later this year I’ll consider selling it or working to dramatically reducing how much those damned wheels cost each month.
Quicken Trends also pointed out months in which I was really good at stashing away money and months in which I spent more than I should have. (A trip to Puerto Rico for a friends’ wedding and some expenses towards my own wedding this August contributed). Unlike a budgeting tool that only looks at a month at a time, however, Quicken trends lets me look at a greater time period, so if you spend more than you should one month, you can make sure other months’ spending is balancing that out.
That’s important, because although we look at our budgets one month at a time, it’s not really realistic. Big expenses pop up that can really throw a wrench in your monthly spending plan.
About Quicken Online
Quicken Online is a free, online, “lite” version of the popular Quicken personal finance software. You can set Quicken Online up in a just a few minutes and link all of your financial institutions. Quicken then grabs your transactions and organizes them. In addition to the trends tool, Quicken Online lets you set monthly spending goals and lets you see upcoming bills to give you a better idea of how much money you actually have in your accounts before your next paycheck. You can access the program 24/7 online or via their iPhone app.